Archive for December, 2009
If you wanted to know all about the Big Bang, you’d ring up Carl Sagan, right? And if you wanted to know about desert warfare, the man to call would be Norman Schwarzkopf, no question about it. But who would you call if you wanted the top expert on American usage, to tell you the meaning of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution? That was the question I asked A.C. Brocki, editorial coordinator of the Los Angeles Unified School District and formerly senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Publishers—who himself had been recommended to me as the foremost expert on English usage in the Los Angeles school system. Mr. Brocki told me to get in touch with Roy Copperud, a retired professor of journalism at the University of Southern California and the author of American Usage and Style: The Consensus. A little research lent support to Brocki’s opinion of Professor Copperud’s expertise. Roy Copperud was a newspaper writer on major dailies for over three decades before embarking on a distinguished 17-year career teaching journalism at USC. Since 1952, Copperud has been writing a column dealing with the professional aspects of journalism for Editor and Publisher, a weekly magazine focusing on the journalism field. He’s on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and Merriam Webster’s Usage Dictionary frequently cites him as an expert. Copperud’s fifth book on usage, American Usage and Style: The Consensus, has been in continuous print from Van Nostrand Reinhold since 1981, and is the winner of the Association of American Publisher’s Humanities Award. That sounds like an expert to me. After a brief telephone call to Professor Copperud in which I introduced myself but did not give him any indication of why I was interested, I sent the following letter: “I am writing you to ask you for your professional opinion as an expert in English usage, to analyze the text of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and extract the intent from the text. “The text of the Second Amendment is, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ “The debate over this amendment has been whether the first part of the sentence, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,’ is a restrictive clause or a subordinate clause, with respect to the independent clause containing the subject of the sentence, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’ “I would request that your analysis of this sentence not take into consideration issues of political impact or public policy, but be restricted entirely to a linguistic analysis of its meaning and intent. Further, since your professional analysis will likely become part of litigation regarding the consequences of the Second Amendment, I ask that whatever analysis you make be a professional opinion that you would be willing to stand behind with your reputation, and even be willing to testify under oath to support, if necessary.” My letter framed several questions about the text of the Second Amendment, then concluded: “I realize that I am asking you to take on a major responsibility and task with this letter. I am doing so because, as a citizen, I believe it is vitally important to extract the actual meaning of the Second Amendment. While I ask that your analysis not be affected by the political importance of its results, I ask that you do this because of that importance.” After several more letters and phone calls, in which we discussed terms for his doing such an analysis, but in which we never discussed either of our opinions regarding the Second Amendment, gun control, or any other political subject, Professor Copperud sent me the following analysis (into which I have inserted my questions for the sake of clarity): [Copperud:] “The words ‘A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,’ contrary to the interpretation cited in your letter of July 26, 1991, constitutes a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying ‘militia,’ which is followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject ‘the right,’ verb ‘shall’). The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining a militia. “In reply to your numbered questions: [Schulman:] “(1) Can the sentence be interpreted to grant the right to keep and bear arms solely to ‘a well-regulated militia’?” [Copperud:] “(1) The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people.” [Schulman:] “(2) Is ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ granted by the words of the Second Amendment, or does the Second Amendment assume a pre-existing right of the people to keep and bear arms, and merely state that such right ‘shall not be infringed’?” [Copperud:] “(2) The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.” [Schulman:] “(3) Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms conditioned upon whether or not a well regulated militia, is, in fact, necessary to the security of a free State, and if that condition is not existing, is the statement ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’ null and void?” [Copperud:] “(3) No such condition is expressed or implied. The right to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state. The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire sentence.” [Schulman:] “(4) Does the clause ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,’ grant a right to the government to place conditions on the ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms,’ or is such right deemed unconditional by the meaning of the entire sentence?;” [Copperud:] “(4) The right is assumed to exist and to be unconditional, as previously stated. It is invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia.” [Schulman:] “(5) Which of the following does the phrase ‘well-regulated militia’ mean: ‘well-equipped,’ ‘well-organized,’ ‘well-drilled,’ ‘well-educated,’ or ‘subject to regulations of a superior authority’?” [Copperud:] “(5) The phrase means ‘subject to regulations of a superior authority;’ this accords with the desire of the writers for civilian control over the military.” [Schulman:] “If at all possible, I would ask you to take into account the changed meanings of words, or usage, since that sentence was written 200 years ago, but not take into account historical interpretations of the intents of the authors, unless those issues can be clearly separated.” [Copperud:] “To the best of my knowledge, there has been no change in the meaning of words or in usage that would affect the meaning of the amendment. If it were written today, it might be put: ‘Since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.’ ” [Schulman:] “As a ‘scientific control’ on this analysis, I would also appreciate it if you could compare your analysis of the text of the Second Amendment to the following sentence: “ ‘A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.’ My questions for the usage analysis of this sentence would be: “(1) Is the grammatical structure and usage of this sentence and the way the words modify each other, identical to the Second Amendment’s sentence?; and “(2) Could this sentence be interpreted to restrict ‘the right of the people to keep and read Books’ only to ‘a well-educated electorate’—for example, registered voters with a high-school diploma?” [Copperud:] “(1) Your ‘scientific control’ sentence precisely parallels the amendment in grammatical structure. “(2) There is nothing in your sentence that either indicates or implies the possibility of a restricted interpretation.” Professor Copperud had only one additional comment, which he placed in his cover letter: “With well-known human curiosity, I made some speculative efforts to decide how the material might be used, but was unable to reach any conclusion.” So now we have been told by one of the top experts on American usage what many knew all along: the Constitution of the United States unconditionally protects the people’s right to keep and bear arms, forbidding all governments formed under the Constitution from abridging that right. As I write this, the attempted coup against constitutional government in the Soviet Union has failed, apparently because the will of the people in that part of the world to be free from capricious tyranny is stronger than the old guard’s desire to maintain a monopoly on dictatorial power. And here in the United States, elected lawmakers, judges, and appointed officials who are pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States ignore, marginalize, or prevaricate about the Second Amendment routinely. American citizens are put in American prisons for carrying arms, owning arms of forbidden sorts, or failing to satisfy bureaucratic requirements regarding the owning and carrying of firearms—all of which is an abridgement of the unconditional right of the people to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Constitution. And even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), staunch defender of the rest of the Bill of Rights, stands by and does nothing. It seems it is up to those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms to preserve that right. No one else will. No one else can. Will we beg our elected representatives not to take away our rights, and continue regarding them as representing us if they do? Will we continue obeying judges who decide that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean what it says it means but means whatever they say it means in their Orwellian doublespeak? Or will we simply keep and bear the arms of our choice, as the Constitution of the United States promises us we can, and pledge that we will defend that promise with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor?
Reprinted from the Sept. 13, 1991 issue of The New Gun Week
If you wanted to know all about the Big Bang, you’d ring up Carl Sagan, right? And if you wanted to know about desert warfare, the man to call would be Norman Schwarzkopf, no question about it. But who would you call if you wanted the top expert on American usage, to tell you the meaning of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution?
That was the question I asked A.C. Brocki, editorial coordinator of the Los Angeles Unified School District and formerly senior editor at Houghton Mifflin Publishers—who himself had been recommended to me as the foremost expert on English usage in the Los Angeles school system. Mr. Brocki told me to get in touch with Roy Copperud, a retired professor of journalism at the University of Southern California and the author of American Usage and Style: The Consensus.
A little research lent support to Brocki’s opinion of Professor Copperud’s expertise.
Roy Copperud was a newspaper writer on major dailies for over three decades before embarking on a distinguished 17-year career teaching journalism at USC. Since 1952, Copperud has been writing a column dealing with the professional aspects of journalism for Editor and Publisher, a weekly magazine focusing on the journalism field.
He’s on the usage panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and Merriam Webster’s Usage Dictionary frequently cites him as an expert. Copperud’s fifth book on usage, American Usage and Style: The Consensus, has been in continuous print from Van Nostrand Reinhold since 1981, and is the winner of the Association of American Publisher’s Humanities Award.
That sounds like an expert to me.
After a brief telephone call to Professor Copperud in which I introduced myself but did not give him any indication of why I was interested, I sent the following letter:
“I am writing you to ask you for your professional opinion as an expert in English usage, to analyze the text of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, and extract the intent from the text.
“The text of the Second Amendment is, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’
“The debate over this amendment has been whether the first part of the sentence, ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,’ is a restrictive clause or a subordinate clause, with respect to the independent clause containing the subject of the sentence, ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.’
“I would request that your analysis of this sentence not take into consideration issues of political impact or public policy, but be restricted entirely to a linguistic analysis of its meaning and intent. Further, since your professional analysis will likely become part of litigation regarding the consequences of the Second Amendment, I ask that whatever analysis you make be a professional opinion that you would be willing to stand behind with your reputation, and even be willing to testify under oath to support, if necessary.”
My letter framed several questions about the text of the Second Amendment, then concluded:
“I realize that I am asking you to take on a major responsibility and task with this letter. I am doing so because, as a citizen, I believe it is vitally important to extract the actual meaning of the Second Amendment. While I ask that your analysis not be affected by the political importance of its results, I ask that you do this because of that importance.”
After several more letters and phone calls, in which we discussed terms for his doing such an analysis, but in which we never discussed either of our opinions regarding the Second Amendment, gun control, or any other political subject, Professor Copperud sent me the following analysis (into which I have inserted my questions for the sake of clarity):
[Copperud:] “The words ‘A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state,’ contrary to the interpretation cited in your letter of July 26, 1991, constitutes a present participle, rather than a clause. It is used as an adjective, modifying ‘militia,’ which is followed by the main clause of the sentence (subject ‘the right,’ verb ‘shall’). The right to keep and bear arms is asserted as essential for maintaining a militia.
“In reply to your numbered questions:
[Schulman:] “(1) Can the sentence be interpreted to grant the right to keep and bear arms solely to ‘a well-regulated militia’?”
[Copperud:] “(1) The sentence does not restrict the right to keep and bear arms, nor does it state or imply possession of the right elsewhere or by others than the people; it simply makes a positive statement with respect to a right of the people.”
[Schulman:] “(2) Is ‘the right of the people to keep and bear arms’ granted by the words of the Second Amendment, or does the Second Amendment assume a pre-existing right of the people to keep and bear arms, and merely state that such right ‘shall not be infringed’?”
[Copperud:] “(2) The right is not granted by the amendment; its existence is assumed. The thrust of the sentence is that the right shall be preserved inviolate for the sake of ensuring a militia.”
[Schulman:] “(3) Is the right of the people to keep and bear arms conditioned upon whether or not a well regulated militia, is, in fact, necessary to the security of a free State, and if that condition is not existing, is the statement ‘the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed’ null and void?”
[Copperud:] “(3) No such condition is expressed or implied. The right to keep and bear arms is not said by the amendment to depend on the existence of a militia. No condition is stated or implied as to the relation of the right to keep and bear arms and to the necessity of a well-regulated militia as a requisite to the security of a free state. The right to keep and bear arms is deemed unconditional by the entire sentence.”
[Schulman:] “(4) Does the clause ‘A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,’ grant a right to the government to place conditions on the ‘right of the people to keep and bear arms,’ or is such right deemed unconditional by the meaning of the entire sentence?;”
[Copperud:] “(4) The right is assumed to exist and to be unconditional, as previously stated. It is invoked here specifically for the sake of the militia.”
[Schulman:] “(5) Which of the following does the phrase ‘well-regulated militia’ mean: ‘well-equipped,’ ‘well-organized,’ ‘well-drilled,’ ‘well-educated,’ or ‘subject to regulations of a superior authority’?”
[Copperud:] “(5) The phrase means ‘subject to regulations of a superior authority;’ this accords with the desire of the writers for civilian control over the military.”
[Schulman:] “If at all possible, I would ask you to take into account the changed meanings of words, or usage, since that sentence was written 200 years ago, but not take into account historical interpretations of the intents of the authors, unless those issues can be clearly separated.”
[Copperud:] “To the best of my knowledge, there has been no change in the meaning of words or in usage that would affect the meaning of the amendment. If it were written today, it might be put: ‘Since a well-regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.’ ”
[Schulman:] “As a ‘scientific control’ on this analysis, I would also appreciate it if you could compare your analysis of the text of the Second Amendment to the following sentence:
“ ‘A well-schooled electorate, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and read Books, shall not be infringed.’
My questions for the usage analysis of this sentence would be:
“(1) Is the grammatical structure and usage of this sentence and the way the words modify each other, identical to the Second Amendment’s sentence?; and
“(2) Could this sentence be interpreted to restrict ‘the right of the people to keep and read Books’ only to ‘a well-educated electorate’—for example, registered voters with a high-school diploma?”
[Copperud:] “(1) Your ‘scientific control’ sentence precisely parallels the amendment in grammatical structure.
“(2) There is nothing in your sentence that either indicates or implies the possibility of a restricted interpretation.”
Professor Copperud had only one additional comment, which he placed in his cover letter: “With well-known human curiosity, I made some speculative efforts to decide how the material might be used, but was unable to reach any conclusion.”
So now we have been told by one of the top experts on American usage what many knew all along: the Constitution of the United States unconditionally protects the people’s right to keep and bear arms, forbidding all governments formed under the Constitution from abridging that right.
As I write this, the attempted coup against constitutional government in the Soviet Union has failed, apparently because the will of the people in that part of the world to be free from capricious tyranny is stronger than the old guard’s desire to maintain a monopoly on dictatorial power.
And here in the United States, elected lawmakers, judges, and appointed officials who are pledged to defend the Constitution of the United States ignore, marginalize, or prevaricate about the Second Amendment routinely. American citizens are put in American prisons for carrying arms, owning arms of forbidden sorts, or failing to satisfy bureaucratic requirements regarding the owning and carrying of firearms—all of which is an abridgement of the unconditional right of the people to keep and bear arms, guaranteed by the Constitution.
And even the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), staunch defender of the rest of the Bill of Rights, stands by and does nothing.
It seems it is up to those who believe in the right to keep and bear arms to preserve that right. No one else will. No one else can. Will we beg our elected representatives not to take away our rights, and continue regarding them as representing us if they do? Will we continue obeying judges who decide that the Second Amendment doesn’t mean what it says it means but means whatever they say it means in their Orwellian doublespeak?
Or will we simply keep and bear the arms of our choice, as the Constitution of the United States promises us we can, and pledge that we will defend that promise with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor?
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
Yahoo News reported yesterday on a custody case almost unthinkable for most of my life, but which I expect will become more common.
A woman named Lisa Miller entered into a civil-union contract in Vermont with another woman named Janet Jenkins. Lisa Miller became pregnant by artificial insemination during this civil union and seven years ago — while the Miller-Jenkins civil union was intact — gave birth to a girl. From what I am able to read about the case, the civil-union contract specified that both women be regarded as parents of the baby.
Now here’s where the case starts really pressing a lot of emotional buttons.
After breaking up with Janet Jenkins, Lisa Miller decided she’s not a Lesbian anymore, moved to Virginia with her biological daughter, and has become an Evangelical Christian. Miller — in contempt of court-ordered custody arrangements which grant parental rights to both women — has now been ordered by Vermont Family Court Judge William Cohen to turn custody of her biological daughter over to the non-biologically-related former partner, Jenkins.
The courts in Vermont, Virginia, and — it seems even the Supreme Court of the United States — are treating the Vermont civil union as legally equivalent to a traditional marriage. There’s a lot of legislation and case law — built up over the years to prevent one biological parent from breaking one state’s custody orders by moving to another state — that’s being used as precedent. The Supreme Court of the United States has refused even to hear this case. That’s a strong indication that SCOTUS regards this case as dealing with settled law.
It seems clear that if Lisa Miller does not comply with this court order to turn her daughter over to Janet Jenkins, she’s going to have the full weight of the law drop on her and squash her like a bug. She runs and she’s a kidnapper, with her face on Post Office walls and her daughter on milk cartons. She’s caught and she’s going to the Big House.
To traditionalists — especially Evangelical Christians — Miller being the child’s biological mother is a strong argument for sole custody. Adding in that the other claimant for parental custody is a Lesbian pretty much finishes off any possibility of escaping adrenaline when viewing such a case. A Christian mother has to give her child to a Lesbian? Have all the judges gone insane?
It doesn’t take much for a science-fiction writer like me to imagine an Underground Railroad of Evangelical Christians hiding Lisa Miller and her daughter, and trying to smuggle them to Canada or Mexico with forged papers.
Here’s the problem for me. Libertarians like me believe the only alternative to a society run by brute force is a society run by the honoring of individual contracts.
Children too young to have legal responsibility for themselves are, in effect, chattel — and always have been. Traditionally parents owned them and could even sell them into apprenticeships or marriages. Modern judges — always wanting as much power transferred away from private individuals to the State as possible — have created a test called “the best interests of the child” that generated laws and legal precedents weakening parental rights, and strengthening powers of government officials to remove children from the custody of an “unfit” biological parent.
That makes libertarians like me nervous as hell when “unfit” could be doing anything considered politically incorrect — smoking, keeping guns in the house, feeding a child veal, or home schooling a child with unapproved books — and that could mean Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard or Manifesto: Three Classic Essays on How to Change the World by Ernesto Che Guevara, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Rosa Luxemburg as much as In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood (8th Edition) by Walt Brown.
Assuming we’re dealing with two fit parents — individuals with means to provide the child with food, clothing, schooling, medical care — the questions a libertarian judge would ask are: Is that Lisa Miller’s signature on the civil-union contract? Was Lisa Miller of legal age and sound mind when she entered into the contract for custody with Janet Jenkins? Was Miller in any way under duress when she signed that agreement?
If the answer to the first two questions are “yes” and “no” to the third question, an impartial libertarian judge who believes that abiding by contracts is the way responsible adults demonstrate their responsibility in other ways would have to say to Lisa Miller, “If you can’t even be trusted to abide by your contract, why should I regard you as trustworthy enough to raise a child?”
This is the same questions libertarians want asked when a surrogate contracted to carry a baby for a couple decides at the last minute to unilaterally breach the surrogacy contract and keep the child.
Now, speaking personally, I hope Janet Jenkins is being motivated to fight for custody because she loves this child, rather than merely being one more fucking political activist using the child as a football in a political struggle for collectivist class rights.
I think it’s a really bad idea that the question of whether Lisa Miller and Janet Jenkins were Lesbian lovers even has to be raised. I find it highly prejudicial — and I mean that at first blush it prejudices me in favor of Lisa Miller retaining custody of her biological offspring — that the wedge issue of gay rights is shoved into this case.
I can see that if Janet Jenkins is denied parental rights in this case, it’s a legal precedent against all adoptive, non-biologically-related parents — regardless of their gender orientation.
Then we’re back to ownership of children by blood … and it means, also, that 17-year-old Rifqa Bary must be sent back to live with her Muslim parents, Mohamed and Aysha Bary, who Rifqa says consider her an infidel because she’s been baptized as a Christian.
Would Evangelical Christians want a “biological parent wins” precedent in the Miller-Jenkins case to force that to happen?
Of course we also need to ask the question: at the age most courts would regard a child as old enough to be tried for a crime as an adult — and, yes, that’s already happened to children as young as seven, the current age of Lisa Miller’s biological daughter — shouldn’t the child at that age get to have major say in who she has to live with?
There was an old hermit named Dave,
Who kept a dead whore in his cave,
He said with a grin,
I know it’s a sin,
But think of the money I’ll save!
There was once a gent from Nantucket,
Whose cock was so long he could suck it,
He said with a grin,
As he wiped off his chin,
If my ass was a cunt I could fuck it!
There was a young lady from Eeling,
Who had a most sensual feeling,
As she lay on her back,
She played with her crack,
Then came all over her ceiling!
This may well be the most important chapter in this book, because this chapter — more than all the others — is about the very essence of what you and I are, and how it is that I’m even communicating with you.
Yet I start it off by quoting three dirty limericks.
I’ll connect it up for you by the chapter’s end.
This chapter is a discussion of why — at least for the moment — you and I are not gods, angels, or supermen, but human beings.
Gods, angels, and supermen do not need language to communicate with each other, either spoken or written. They do not need books. Gods, angels, and supermen can communicate with each other directly by sharing the images of their thoughts, directly sharing their emotions, and if they need language at all, it’s not words but music and dance. If they need to store memories or history, that’s what trees are for.
Ayn Rand, in her book Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, and Alfred Korzybski, in his book Science and Sanity, could not disagree more about Aristotle as the starting point for exploring human construction of thought.
Rand’s arguments are about a pyramid starting with sensation, building into direct apprehension of things as “percepts,” then rising to thoughts no longer dependent on reality called “concepts,” which she believes can — possibly except for mathematics — only be expressed by words.
Korzybski starts with what he calls “negative axioms.” A photograph of a thing is not the thing itself. A map is not the territory. The symbol is not the referent. A word is never the thing itself.
But even starting in such opposite directions, Rand and Korzybski agree entirely about the nature of human beings as symbolic language-using beings. To Korzybski, it’s our ability to remember the past and anticipate the future — what he calls “time-binding” — that’s the essence of our nature as human beings … and it’s our symbols that make it possible. To both Rand and Korzybski, to the extent that our thoughts are drawn from and tested against reality, to that extent we are functional. To both Rand and Korskybski, to the extent that our thoughts fail to reflect reality, to that extent we drive ourselves to do crazy and destructive things.
Rand and Korskybski are both enemies of the thought — perhaps “fear” is more accurate — that the use of words touch and control real things. A teenager whose rebellious words to a disciplining parent — “I hate you! I wish you were dead!” might suffer endless guilt if those were the last words spoken before the parent tragically died, hit by a train while stuck on railroad tracks, a few hours later. The grief of the parent’s death might go away. The thought that somehow the words were a curse that caused the accident might never go away. Rand, Korzybski, and a psychiatrist would all argue that the teenager’s guilt was misplaced because all modern, reasonable people know that angry words can’t trap a parent’s car in the path of oncoming trains.
The idea that words and other symbols do directly control reality — without a known path of causation, such as voice-recognition software operating a mechanism — is the basis for all sympathetic magic and much superstition, ranging from Voodoo to Kaballah.
If there are worlds touching us that we can’t see — and even modern physics contemplates the idea that “perhaps only a millimeter away” there could be a parallel universe whose gravitation affects the 95% of our own universe whose matter and energy is “dark” and unperceived by us — then who’s to say that living within dark matter and parallel universes aren’t all the creatures of legend — imps, pixies, gremlins, demons, and guardian angels?
That’s the idea Ayn Rand was scoffing at when she wrote that the universe isn’t a haunted house.
I actually wrote a limerick of my own years ago in tribute to this idea:
Thank Rand for the World where A is A,
And not any non-A you wanted,
For if t’were not so,
Then as these things go,
The whole Universe would be haunted!
So when words are forbidden, it’s often because of the superstitious belief — the primal fear — that these words have power directly to affect reality.
Jewish mysticism — Kaballah — expresses the belief that the text of the Hebrew Torah is the actual “DNA” code for God’s entire creation of the universe. This belief is expressed throughout mainstream Judaism where the name of God is not used but expressed through euphemisms such as “the Eternal” and “the Almighty,” where Torah scribes leave out the names of God from their copying until the very last step — for fear of making a mistake and having to extinguish the divine name — and where even the English word “God” is written as “G-D.” The 1979 comedy Monty Python’s Life of Brian makes fun of New-Testament-era Hebrews stoning blasphemers for saying the name “Jehovah” in a hilarious scene where eventually — for accidentally saying it — everyone is stoning everyone else.
Christianity picks up this idea from the Hebrews and the Gospel of John accordingly starts, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Both the Jewish and Christian belief is the opposite of Rand and Korzybski’s — and the psychiatrist’s — argument that words are just symbolic and do not control reality. The Jewish and Christian mystic — no less than the Voodoo priest — believe that the word is the thing, the symbol is the referent, the map is the territory, and that God’s Word is the very power of Creation, itself.
No wonder all offspring of the Hebrew religion — Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — condemn a sin called “blasphemy”: the sympathetic magic contained in the words you and I speak are regarded as having the power to bless or damn.
Controlling usage is also a means of defining social classes. In the UK “Received English” defines the speech of the upper class, often as much today as when George Bernard Shaw, in his 1913 play Pygmalion, (made into the 1956 Broadway musical My Fair Lady) portrayed how lower-class speech acted as a ceiling to upward mobility. Similarly, social preferencing against American Southern usages and accent is still common in America today as an indication of lower-class speech, whether “redneck” when used by whites or “ebonic” when used by blacks.
I talked in Chapter 11 about how growing up I was a fan of Mad Magazine. I don’t have the back issue where I can get it, but to this day I remember a Dave Berg “Lighter Side” cartoon strip from the early 60’s about a next-generation where Beatnik parents have teenagers who rebel against them by being respectful, neat, serious, and pious.
Ironically, Berg came frighteningly close to describing the relationship between my daughter, Soleil, and myself. I’m from a generation where four-letter words are not only not forbidden, but often mandatory. In the Dave Berg reversal of parenting I’ve lived through, my daughter is constantly telling me to clean up my language.
But if I, and others of my generation, say “fuck” a lot, it’s because we know those who fought for our right to say it paid dearly.
In the 1993 movie Matinee two teenage boys are shown sneaking a record of Lenny Bruce’s stand-up monologue, “Tits and ass.” It was, perhaps, the mildest of Lenny Bruce’s forbidden stand-up routines. On October 4, 1961, Bruce was arrested for obscenity during a performance at San Francisco’s Jazz Workship where he used the word “cocksucker” and did a riff on the sexual innuendo of the verb “to come.” Bruce was convicted of obscenity after a performance at Greenwich Village’s Cafe Au Go Go, prosecuted by New York District Attorney, Frank Hogan (may this cocksucker roast in Hell!) and died many years before Republican New York Governor George Pataki pardoned him.
Dustin Hoffman performed many of Bruce’s routines verbatim in the 1974 movie Lenny — and wasn’t arrested for it.
Once arrested after a December 1962 Lenny Bruce performance at Chicago’s Gate of Horn, where police stopped the show and arrested Bruce for obscenity, audience member George Carlin was locked in the back of a police wagon with Bruce merely for refusing to show ID to police.
Twelve years later George Carlin carved out freedom territory of his own when he was arrested for disturbing the peace when he performed a stand-up routine at Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s Summerfest called “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television.” The seven words were “shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker, and tits.” In 1973 Pacifica Radio’s WBAI in New York broadcast another Carlin routine containing the seven words, and a listener driving in a car with his son complained to the FCC, resulting in a 1978 Supreme-Court legal decision in FCC v. Pacifica Foundation that upheld the FCC’s right to censor broadcast language.
George Carlin later expanded his list to over 200 words. Other stand-up comics, such as Richard Pryor, expanded the liberated vocabulary to the word “nigger” — although that didn’t do Michael Richards much good, because unlike Pryor he was white. Freedom of speech in America today divides along racist grounds.
I portray the costs of performing politically-incorrect comedy in my 2009 short story, “The Laughskeller,” in which comedian Jerry Rhymus — banned after a successful career in mainstream media after performing an over-the-top routine — now plays two shows nightly to extremist audiences at an underground Nevada club, beginning his routine to the first show, “Who wants to kill that kike-loving commie nigger motherfucker in the White House?” and to his second show, “Who wants to kill that Zionist-loving fascist fake-nigger motherfucker in the White House?”
It wasn’t the first time I played with the usage of language in my fiction. In my 1983 novel, The Rainbow Cadenza, I portray a future in which the word “fuck” is only used to denote sexual intercourse, and the vernacular uses of the word “fuck” have been replaced with the word “rape.”
Currently the FCC stands as a capricious bully, fining broadcasters and performers based entirely on non-objective criteria for what they consider either serious or provocative usages — only the former being allowed. “Shock jock” Howard Stern and his broadcast stations were fined by the FCC so frequently that Stern fled broadcasting entirely in favor of FCC-unregulated satellite radio.
There has been some loosening of standards since the 1939 controversy of Clark Gable telling Vivian Leigh, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
The first time the word “bullshit” was heard on American network television without being bleeped was the broadcast of Paddy Chayefsky and Sydney Lumet’s Oscar-winning film, Network.
The word “ass” wasn’t allowed on The Tonight Show before Jimmy Carter told reporters during the 1980 presidential campaign that if Senator Ted Kennedy ran against him in the primaries he would “whip his ass.”
It took broadcasts of rescue-workers on 9/11/2001 before the FCC allowed the word “fuck” to be broadcast.
Charlton Heston was so offended by the rap lyrics to Ice-T’s 1992 recording “Cop Killer” that he performed them at a stockholder’s meeting of the record’s label, Time Warner.
If there were a Monty Python version of this event, the assembled stockholders of Time Warner would have had to stone Charlton Heston for his blasphemy.
In my imagined version of the scene, when he’s hit by the first stone Heston would be miraculously transformed into the costume he wore in his Oscar winning role of Ben Hur.
Of course it might be more appropriate simply to recall Charlton Heston’s performance with Johnny Carson on the December 12, 1972 broadcast of The Tonight Show, in which Charlton Heston performed the following limerick:
There was a young lady of Norway,
Who hung by her toes in a doorway,
She said to her beau,
“Just look at me, Joe!
I think I’ve discovered one more way!”
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XIX: Don’t Look Now!
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter Moonshiners, Medicine Men, and Merchants of Death
Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 17: Banned In Boston
The leader shouted, “The motherfucker’s got one!” and scurried down the street, followed in close order by his compatriots.
Alongside Night, Crown Publishers, 1979
She smiled, continuing to match his pace. “I said that for five thousand blues, I’ll go to the bathroom in my panties. I’ve been holding it in all day. You can watch me—even feel it if you want to. I wet myself, too. How about it?”
Soon he stood at Times Square, cursing himself methodically. You fuckhead, you prick, you numbskull! … You were carrying a fucking revolver and still you were afraid….
“Oh. Okay. Why don’t we go back to your room and fuck?”
“If this is a revolution, then let’s not fuck it all up this time.”
She noticed the erection under his pants and was furious. “If the last six thousand men who fucked me didn’t make me come, what makes you think you can?”
“I won’t fuck you. I’ll lick you out.”
The Rainbow Cadenza, Simon & Schuster, 1983
The man was also looking hard, his breathing becoming rapid and irregular. He reached down to his leather pants and released his erect penis.
“As I started saying before, it is crucial to remember that the most responsive parts of the penis are the glans and the underside of the shaft. Begin by withdrawing your teeth behind your lips and take the tip of the penis in your mouth, gently massaging it with your lips.”
Joan did as she was ordered, orally massaging the head of his penis until Blaine had reached erection.
A few seconds later, there was a high-pitched scream from across the stadium. Then a second and a third.
Joan stopped. “What was that?” she asked Filcher.
“I believe Lady Moslow has brought out the whips and chains,” he said. “Go on with what you were doing.”
Joan glared at Filcher and got her first reaction out of him that night—a bulge under his leathers.
I awakened at about 3,500 feet up and about fifteen minutes away from my bedroom window to find myself naked but not cold, flying prone with the city lights of Heaven below me, two gorgeous angels as my honor guard, and my pecker pointing down like landing gear.
Escape from Heaven, Pulpless.Com, 2002
“The entire fucking idea behind creation was to fuck things up as much as possible and make everyone else’s life a living hell!”
“Who did you fuck that you rate the A list?” he asked.
“There’s no mystery why every man on earth, and half the women, want to fuck her.”
My three novels — quoted above — were published for the first time, respectively, in 1979, 1983, and 2002.
But as recently as 1966 William Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch had legally been prohibited for sale in Boston, Massachusetts — under pressure from the religiously conservative Watch and Ward Society — but it took the 1966 Supreme Court ruling in Memoirs v. Massachusetts to end the practice of local authorities banning books for their “prurient” content.
Without that ruling, I — and my publisher — could have been dragged into court to stand trial if some local official decided that any of the above quotes made us pornographers, and my novels obscene.
But just because I missed taking a bullet as a novelist doesn’t mean I haven’t had to self-censor.
When I wrote my first-draft screenplay, “Profile in Silver,” for CBS TV’s Twilight Zone TV series in 1985 — a story in which a future historian time-travels back to the JFK assassination in Dallas — I was required to write a second draft of the script removing a second gunman wearing a Dallas police uniform on the Grassy Knoll. I never saw it — but it was read to me over the phone — a memo CBS executive Tony Barr wrote to the Twilight Zone producers that said, “The CBS Television Network is not going to rewrite history.”
Nor — as President of SoftServ Publishing in 1990 — was I free from such pressures. Here’s an open message I posted on GEnie — the General Electric Network for Information Exchange — which was hosting my company’s distribution of eBooks:
Mon Mar 12, 1990 SOFTSERV [NeilSchulman] at 19:21 EST Sub: Should Books Be Banned … on GEnie?
A few weeks back I uploaded a file called SOFTSERV.LST which was a list of titles that SoftServ has under contract, at the various stages of preparation. This was only a list of book titles; there was no description or excerpts from any of the books.
Some of the titles listed were from Loompanics Unlimited, which specializes in what they themselves describe as “unusual books.”
Here is an excerpt from the introduction to the Loompanics Catalog, to give you an idea of their bookselling philosophy:
“Herein you will find controversial and unusual books on a wide variety of subjects. Most of these books cannot be found in even the largest libraries. The majority of them will never be seen in bookstores. … So controversial are the books we offer that most magazines will not allow us to advertise. Bookstores and distributors will not carry our publications. Periodicals refuse to review our books. We know where we belong: we are the lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement. Because we do not believe in limits. We do not believe in laws, rules or regulations. We have contempt for censorship, secrecy, and dogmatism. We don’t give a damn about being ‘respectable.’ We don’t give a damn about anything except your right to find out anything you want to know. Nothing is sacred to us, not even skepticism and self-reliance.”
A stronger and more unyielding defense of freedom of the press has nowhere else been seen. For their consistency of practicing what they preach, Loompanics Unlimited has been a source of endless trouble to all established institutional authority — and a source of lots of books for the 20,000 people who receive the Loompanics Unlimited Book catalog. If the contents of their books are not respectable, their sales figures are very respectable by the standards of any New York publishing house.
All of the above was why SoftServ, whose founders are likewise committed to the absolute right of people to read and write what they please, decided to become an electronic distributor for the titles Loompanics Unlimited publishes.
It has never been SoftServ’s intention to specialize in any area of publication. We are a generalist. It is our intention to build up a title list in the thousands, including classics, textbooks, fiction, nonfiction, reference works, current controversies, politics, history, and so forth, and so on, et cetera, ad nauseum.
But one of GEnie’s clients took one look at our list of upcoming books, saw some of the Loompanics titles on our list, and decided that SoftServ is some sort of sleazy, subversive, vanity-press operation, which a Respectable Company like General Electric shouldn’t have anything to do with. This person sent a letter of complaint to William Louden, the General Manager of GEnie, and got on his case. The heat was on, and in short order I was being told by GEnie to get this list of titles the hell off their system.
Let me start by saying that I value GEnie’s clients. I hope to make them SoftServ Paperless Book Club members.
But I have no bloody use for the sort of people who think they have the right to tell other people what they can and can’t read. That is freedom. If this person had written to me, rather than Mr. Louden, it is quite possible I would have told them to take their letter and put it where the sun don’t shine: I have no patience with people who think their small-minded opinions are binding on others.
If I had been temperate, I might have simply quoted Jesus and asked, “What is this to you?”
Regardless of how it started, GEnie has decided that Respectability is in fact their Guiding Light. Within contractual limits, that is their right. Since the agreement by which SoftServ is distributing our titles through GEnie was fairly informal, there arose a difference in interpretation regarding SoftServ’s right to market our titles without any blocking by GEnie.
As businesses must do if they are to remain in business, I found it necessary to reach an accommodation with GEnie. This accommodation will result in certain titles which SoftServ has under contract never being distributed on GEnie, and severe limits being placed on SoftServ’s ability even to openly mention these titles.
Such titles will be made available on the off-GEnie computer bulletin board which SoftServ will be starting in the next few months. At least until the sheriff comes after us, at which point I may have to ask Gary Hudson to give our computers a lift to Low Earth Orbit, and hook up our modems to the nearest communications satellite.
The point to all this is that, ultimately, the fight for a free press must be fought by those who wish the right to read banned books. We writers, publishers, and distributors are much too subject to economic, political, and legal pressure to be able to hold out, regardless of our beliefs or intentions. I found myself having to make a decision between not selling some books on GEnie, or not selling any books on GEnie.
And, I am ashamed to say, I found very few people who advised me to stand my ground for the sake of principle. Principles seem to have little social value these days.
Removing the list of Loompanics book titles from GEnie wasn’t even enough to mollify G.E. management. Our one-year contract with GEnie was not renewed. It took five years, the advent of the World Wide Web, and a new company before I was able to have another go at eBook publishing again.
Of course all of my experience has been with private companies exercising their contractual rights to restrict what I write or publish. That’s not actually censorship, merely editorial control.
But in countries without a First Amendment actual censorship — banning of books and arrest of authors — is quite common.
Writing a book that denies the Holocaust — or even questions historical aspects of it, such as the use of gas chambers for mass executions — can get you arrested in Canada and Europe. In 1983 Robert Faurisson was fined by a French court for his writings questioning details of the Holocaust of European Jewry. I’m Jewish. It’s still censorship. Anyone who promotes censorship — Jew or gentile — is an enemy of freedom. And the more the United States becomes subject to international law and trade agreements, the less the First Amendment means.
But we don’t have to leave the United States for actual government censorship. In 2004 59-year-old grandmother Donna Dull was arrested in Pennsylvania after the film lab at WalMart reported her to police for having dropped off film with naked pictures of her three-year-old granddaughter coming out of the bathtub. She was charged with distributing child pornography and it took fifteen months before the charges were eventually dropped. She’s now suing.
Under Sharia Law in effect in many Islamic countries — in Europe, and, believe it or not, sections of the United States — representations of Muhammad or Islam considered offensive to Muslims can get you censored … or even murdered. Novelist Salman Rushdie has had a “fatwa” — in Mafia terms a contract — put out on his life ever since his novel The Satanic Verses was published in 1988. Dutch filmmaker “Theo” van Gogh was shot eight times, stabbed in the chest, and nearly decapitated by Dutch-Moroccan Muslim, Mohammed Bouyeri, on November 2, 2004, because van Gogh’s film Submission criticized the treatment of women in Islam.
But Kevin Smith — according to DVD comments for his movie Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back — had to pay a “ten thousand dollar fine” because the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) disliked his comedy’s “overwhelmingly homophobic tone.”
I guess paying a little extortion is better than getting your head cut off.
I could talk endlessly about banned books — the American Library Association holds a Banned Books Week each year to celebrate books forced to be removed from school and public libraries. Classics regularly on the list include Huckleberry Finn, The Lord of the Rings, Nineteen-eighty-four, and Gone With the Wind.
Gone With the Wind also had possible censorship problems when the movie was released, because of Rhett Butler’s closing line, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” The word “damn” was on a list forbidden under the Hays Code. The Motion Picture Association board passed an amendment to the Production Code on November 1, 1939 specifically so they wouldn’t have to levy a fine on the film’s powerful producer, David O. Selznick.
But you know what book gets banned more than any other? I could have listed smuggling it in my previous chapter, inasmuch as smugglers of this book have been arrested and even reported executed in countries ranging from North Korea to China to Saudi Arabia. It’s not The Anarchist Cookbook or James Joyce’s Ulysses or The Kama Sutra … and it’s certainly not anything I ever wrote.
It’s the Bible.
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XVIII: Wash Your Mouth Out!
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto: Moonshiners, Medicine Men, and Merchants of Death
Go to book’s beginning.
Read the previous chapter For Love or Money
Unchaining the Human Heart
— A Revolutionary Manifesto
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Chapter 16: Moonshiners, Medicine Men, and Merchants of Death
This is a book about liberating passion. What do people who evade federal excise taxes on the manufacture of liquor, push drugs that haven’t achieved FDA approval, and sell weapons designed only to kill other people have to do with that?
What the three examples in the title of this chapter have in common, of course, is that they are all legally and morally dubious. So it might be useful to start with a legal analysis.
We’ll start where I get most of my legal knowledge — movies and TV — in this case from the movie Legally Blonde.
In Legally Blonde Harvard law student, Elle Woods, is asked by a professor if she’d prefer to defend a client charged with a crime that is malum prohibitum or malum in se. In the Latin jargon lawyers use, a malum prohibitum crime is an unlawful act only because someone passed a law against it, as opposed to doing something that is evil whether or not there’s a law passed against doing it, which would be an act that’s malum in se.
Elle tells her professor that she’d prefer to defend clients who are charged with a malum in se offense … because she’s not afraid of danger.
In this chapter I’ll be looking only at malum prohibitum — doing things that may be perfectly fine from a moral standpoint but are crimes because it violates the law.
So I won’t defend murder or theft, but I would defend killing in self-defense or using stealth to take back something which was stolen.
And in this chapter I’ll be talking about people whose love is to defend freedom for freedom’s sake.
How difficult, after all, would it have been for moonshiners in Appalachia — beginning in the 1930’s — to pay federal excise tax, slap on a tax stamp, and by doing so open up their products to huge markets both domestically and overseas? Instead of being one of the poorest regions in the Union, legal moonshine could have made Appalachia the Napa Valley of corn liquor.
So why go to all the trouble to keep their liquor illegal with all the risks and penalties?
For the same reason my friend, Samuel Edward Konkin III, refused to complete his doctorate in theoretical chemistry and go to work for Union Carbide, Monsanto, or Dow. Sheer, freedom-loving orneriness. The moonshiners thrived on risk and the thrill of living their dream. They stood fast on their principles.
No wonder history treats them as folk heroes.
To later generations, marijuana growers and dealers represent the same spirit of liberty. Despite generations of “Just Say No” and D.A.R.E. in every public school, Cheech and Chong — The Breakfast Club — Harold and Kumar — are for generation after generation still icons of American rebellion.
Ever hear of Omega-3 fish oil? Alpha-Lipoic Acid? Vitamin D-3? Mixed-tocopherols Vitamin E? Lycopene? Green tea and white tea? All of them have clinical studies strongly indicating that they have health benefits.
None of these exist, as far as establishment medicine in the United States is concerned. They won’t be covered under your health insurance — or whatever government-approved plan is passed. Doctors aren’t taught about them in medical school and they’re not found in hospital dispensaries. All of them — and many more “health supplements” — originated and have been made available in spite of FDA attempts to control or outright prohibit them.
Clive Amor — a violinist I wrote about in Chapter Seven of this book — was in a major car crash that compressed the ulnar nerve on his left arm and paralyzed two fingers on his left hand, without which it’s impossible to play the violin. He visited every orthopedic expert modern medicine had to offer, and they could do nothing for him. Then Clive visited a chiropractor in Canada and after a single adjustment the feeling and movement returned to Clive Amor’s frozen fingers. This violinist who had studied under Jascha Heifetz was able to play violin again.
Look up Chiropractic in Wikipedia:
The American Medical Association called chiropractic an “unscientific cult” and boycotted it until losing a 1987 antitrust case.
Look up Accupuncture while you’re at it. Here’s the official statement from the American Medical Association — the same cartel that financed TV commercials pushing for more government control over your health care — statement on Accupuncture:
There is little evidence to confirm the safety or efficacy of most alternative therapies. Much of the information currently known about these therapies makes it clear that many have not been shown to be efficacious. Well-designed, stringently controlled research should be done to evaluate the efficacy of alternative therapies.
What chance is there that Chiropractic or Accupuncture will be included in your options when the government gets to decide what therapies are covered and which aren’t?
Want to use a nurse-midwife for natural childbirth instead of an obstetrician, and deliver in a birthing center instead of a hospital? Good luck with that getting paid for by your health insurance.
But you’ll be fined if you don’t buy government-approved private health insurance that doesn’t cover any of these alternative therapies, hunted down by IRS agents, and sent to prison if you “evade” the fine.
Then there are the “merchants of death”: gun manufacturers and dealers. People who sell guns at “gun-law loophole” gun shows. People who took the clear text of the Second Amendment listed in the Bill of Rights at its word — long before the Supreme Court of the United States got around to it — enshrining “the right of the people to keep and bear arms” as an individual right.
Well, since when have free Americans needed permission from nine robed priests to employ their own natural right of self-defense?
Why is it that someone who helped you cross the border from totalitarian East Germany to “free world” West Germany from 1961 to 1989 was always looked at as a good guy, but a “coyote” who helps someone escape from the violent narcocracy of Mexico to the “free world” in the United States of America is always looked at as a bad guy?
Why is it that a stock broker who takes a bet over the Internet on whether a stock will go up or down is a legitimate businessman, but a bookie who takes a bet over the phone on a horse race is a criminal?
Ever see the movie Cast A Giant Shadow? Frank Sinatra is portrayed as a hero for playing a pilot who smuggles in guns to Jews fighting the British for Independence. But would a pilot who smuggled in guns to Mexico so people could defend themselves from drug gangsters be portrayed so heroically today?
Nowhere in the Constitution of the United States is there authority for paper currency issued by a cartel of private banks to carry the signature of the Treasurer of the United States and the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States — a cartel that the Treasurer of the United States, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Congress, the Courts, and even the President are forbidden to audit.
Yet if any private bank were to issue gold and silver coins to be circulated as money in the United States, the bankers would be imprisoned, their bank shut down, their gold and silver stocks confiscated, and their customers left as helpless as Bernard Madoff’s victims.
And we’re supposed to believe that it’s the love of money that’s the root of all evil?
Next in Unchaining the Human Heart — A Revolutionary Manifesto is Chapter XVII: Banned in Boston
Copyright © 2010 The J. Neil Schulman Living Trust. All rights reserved.
I’ve been engaged in some high-energy debates over the past few days, which have stimulated me to write mini-essays on various topics of my own interest.
On Boxing Day 2009 I pull some excerpts of what I’ve written off the various pages I have been debating them on and put them on my own front page. I have newly edited some of these to eliminate extraneous matter and focus them.
On Whether I’m Reasonably Intelligent or Fucking Stupid
Speaking of science, I have a question about your temper. Is it possessed of infinite energy, or is it living disproof of special relativity? It seems that it must be one or the other, as it appears to take you from Reasonably Intelligent to Goddamn, This Guy Is Fucking Stupid at faster than 186,000 miles per second.
— Thomas L. Knapp, Publisher, Rational Review
A man does not get to judge himself intelligent or stupid. That’s for somebody else to judge. One could hope for an objective judge but the truth is that most people think someone is smart when they say something they agree with, and stupid when they say something they disagree with.
I’m a writer. I lay myself open to have what I write judged every day I publish my thoughts here.
Am I smart? Isn’t that the last question that needs to be asked?
Am I just saying things to make me popular among a set of people with fixed ideas? That would make me seem smart to those people. It works for Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck and Bill Maher.
Do I care about the truth of what I write or am I just writing to win debating points?
Do I care about being clever more than I care about discovering truth?
When I write something short and to the point, am I being merely pithy or insightful?
Am I a simpleton or can I boil the complex down to its essentials?
I’ve been a published writer for close to four decades. An awful lot of my stuff can be found just by Googling what I’ve written as a guest columnist on Rational Review for years. Or reading my books, several of which I’ve made available to be read free on the web. Or just reading what I’ve posted daily for close to two months here.
I’ll let my readers decide.
On Global Warming
The proof that Global Warming is not science but a scam can come down to two easy to understand points:
1) The major greenhouse gas on planet earth — 95% of greenhouse gas — is water vapor. Carbon dioxide — which comes out of our mouths when we exhale — and methane — which comes out our asses when we fart — are a tiny fraction of the atmosphere compared to water vapor. Yet these con artists have gotten away with the idea that fractional increases in fractional gasses which living things make will destroy the environment. It’s an obvious lie which anyone with an IQ above room temperature can understand.
2. Climate change on earth tracks closely with measurements astronomers have made of climate change on other planets in the solar system, where human beings don’t exist, where living things don’t exist, where capitalism and industry don’t exist. That makes it obvious that the sun controls the major climate changes on this planet, not human beings, living things, or capitalist industry.
Either one of these is a proof that man-made capitalist global warming is horse shit. You don’t need to know more science than this to understand that they’re lying for reasons of seizing political power.
And when they cripple the energy supplies human beings need to survive and suggest the cure for global warming is reducing the population, you understand the object of the fraud is totalitarian control.
To come to the conclusion that fractional changes in the amount of a single gas — carbon dioxide — in the earth’s atmosphere could create a catastrophic change sufficient to flood continental lowlands one has to be able to make a firm statement that “all other things will remain equal.”
No scientist could ever make such a firm statement. The human biosphere is pretty much a closed system. Solar weather and rare impacts of large extraterrestrial objects are the only major external factors from outside the atmosphere, and eruptions from underneath the earth’s crust entering our biosphere are the other major external factors.
Leaving those aside for a moment, and concentrating just on human-caused factors, we’re already having to account for the impact of 6.7 billion humans going about their daily lives before you could focus on the changes of a single factor such as carbon-dioxide emissions.
Every time someone made a fire, you have to account not only for the release of carbon dioxide — which theoretically could have a warming effect — but the fire releasing particulate matter into the atmosphere, which would have a cooling effect.
Every time someone put a pot on the stove to boil water the release of the major greenhouse gas — water vapor — would have to be accounted for.
Every time someone changed the tiles on their roof from a dark, solar-absorbing color to a light solar-reflective color one would have to account for the difference.
Is your swimming pool full or empty? Do you have a cover on it? Major factors that would to be accounted for.
A water desalination plant removes salt from sea water and it’s released back into the ecosystem as fresh water. Major changes that need to be accounted for.
A city switches from diesel buses that release particulate matter into the atmosphere — blocking sunlight — to a fleet of Clean Natural Gas — “greenhouse gas” methane — buses. Has to be accounted for.
A heavy snowfall at the sources of rivers can change the saline content of the bays they empty into — has to be accounted for.
Now you have those extra-bubble events for which human beings have no control: meteor impacts, volcanic eruptions, changes in solar weather. A single volcanic eruption can shoot more sunlight-blocking particulate matter into the atmosphere in a few days than is contained in the entire history of human industrial pollution.
Is this enough? Anyone who lives in the world and has an elementary-school understanding of earth sciences — or at least when I was in school a half century ago — could figure out pretty quickly that for anyone to claim that minor changes in a single fractional gas — carbon dioxide — to be able to be claimed as causing global warming, you would first have to be able to account for all these millions and millions of other independent factors.
It’s obviously false. To state the obvious isn’t arrogant. To call people who state as even possible such an absurdity anything less than liars or dupes is to doubt one’s own sanity, one’s entire understanding that we live in an ecosystem far too complex for any real scientist to make categorical predictions worthy of crippling the production and supply of plentiful human sources of energy in favor of this crackpot Big Lie.
Even if we were to concede, as a thought experiment, that Al Gore’s worst-case scenario were true — and the addition of carbon dioxide and methane into earth’s atmosphere was going to cause massive flooding of coastal lowlands — why should anyone assume that trying to limit industrial release of greenhouse gases is the most cost-effective or even achievable solution?
How about paying to move human settlements to higher ground? Or building seawalls for lowlanders, like in Holland? What about new floating cities with people living in houseboats and working on floating platforms? Or just really big floating platforms, like oil-drilling rigs or aircraft carriers.
Surely global warming makes polar-adjacent lands currently uninhabitable due to cold more attractive for new migration, development, and industrialization?
The neat thing about having alternative solutions not dependent on crippling current industry — as my friend Brad Linaweaver points out — is that it costs far less to makes plans for a global catastrophe in case it ever happens than to blow trillions of dollars — and destroy economic growth — on the dubious premise that God and Al Gore have ordained it as a future certainty.
And why assume polar bears can’t stand warmer weather? They have heat reflective white fur, and might be far more comfortable in warmer climes than their brown and black-furred relatives.
Isn’t the first lesson of Darwin and Spencer that adaptability to a changing environment is a necessary survival trait? Since when did the human species exempt itself from the necessity of adapting to changing environmental conditions, and instead demand that we air-condition the earth to our chosen comfort zone?
I don’t know who asked it first — I’ve heard it attributed to Dennis Miller — but would someone please tell me the exact ideal temperature to which we’re supposed to set the Global Thermostat?
Information Objects as Property
You go into a Waldenbooks and plunk down cash for a book that says on the cover “ATLAS SHRUGGED by Ayn Rand.” You get it home … and the first sentence is, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Now, what you bought is a book and this book has got everything that makes a book a book: a binding, hundreds of sheets of paper with printed ink impressions on it, and a cover. Let’s even pretend that the book you took home has the same number of pages, the same dimensions and weight, the same binding and style of printing as the book with the composition called ATLAS SHRUGGED. Do you have any just cause of complaint if the composition of words inside the book turns out to be something other than what the cover says? If you answer no, then you got everything you paid for. But if you answer yes, then you are saying that the composition of words makes this book a different commodity from the book you thought you were buying, and therefore you are rightfully entitled to a copy of the composition of words labelled ATLAS SHRUGGED.”
–J. Neil Schulman, Informational Property: Logorights
Does the difference in composition of words make an otherwise identical physical object a different thing — yes or no?
Did the buyer who expected to get a copy of Atlas Shrugged and who got a copy of A Tale of Two Cities get what they paid for — yes or no?
If the answer is yes to the first of these questions or no to the second, then you have conceded that the composition of words — the logos — is the sole differentia between two physical objects — and therefore the logos is what makes it a different thing.
If the logos makes these two otherwise identical objects different things then that which makes them different things is what gives them their value — and the property rights case for the logos is made.
The real-world difference between two otherwise identical books — one with the composed text of Atlas Shrugged and one with the composed text of A Tale of Two Cities — is the composition of words. These are objective differentia that can be discovered by either human readers or even machine intelligence. The compositions, as information, have different mathematical values that can be calculated.
It is a true statement that there are minute differences in every single object that exists. But the word “duplicate” is a meaningful term in that the essential utility of a book is to be read (yes, I know books can be used by interior decorators and also be used to hold up a broken table leg or as a paper weight) but the essential quality of a book — why human beings go to the trouble of manufacturing them — is that they are convenient means of recording and transporting the printed words, symbols, and art work on the pages.
Atlas Shrugged is identified as a distinct commodity by its words, whether they exist printed in a hardcover book, or a paperback book, or read aloud as a recording, or as bits of data stored or transmitted digitally. The entity that is Atlas Shrugged is an information object — a real-world thing — separate, distinguishable by man or machine, and valued apart from the multiplicity of physical forms on which it may be recorded or performed.
The usefulness — utility — which human beings have for this objectively and observably distinct information object — this thing — is based on the presence, intactness, completeness, and availability of that objectively and observably distinct information object.
The subjective value which any human being will or will not assign to this objectively and observably distinct information object will be based on the objectively and observably distinct identity.
A human being will take action with respect to acquiring, using, keeping, or discarding that objectively and observably distinct information object because no matter how many different objects, forms, or transformations it goes through it’s identity is the same and therefore it’s the same thing.
That which makes it a distinct thing — that which gives it distinct utility — that which makes it distinctly an object of desire by a human being’s subjective perceptions and choice — is its material identity.
That which makes it a thing makes it ownable.
He who creates it is its first owner.
Those who respect property rights must respect that if a thing can be identified as unique and different –- and can be recognized as a thing created by someone — that its creator owns it.
The rest of my logorights argument uses commonly accepted theories of ownership and history of property rights transactions in the real world — to show how ownership rights in material identity can be claimed, recognized, traded, and protected — just like all other naturally occurring property rights — without the existence of the State.
On Economics as Science
Translating supposedly complex ideas into simple English:
The labor theory and cost principle are logically entailed in man’s nature as a being who maximizes utility and (more to the point) minimizes disutility. […]
Translation: Men tend to be lazy.
A producer will continue to bring his goods to market only if he receives a price necessary, in his subjective evaluation, to compensate him for the disutility involved in producing them. And he will be unable to charge a price greater than this necessary amount, for a very long time, if market entry is free and supply is elastic, because competitors will enter the field until price equals the disutility of producing the final increment of the commodity.
Translation: Nobody’s going to sell anything if it’s not worth his while, and it might not be for a while because of competition.
Such statements require no verification beyond an a priori understanding of human nature. Mises himself wrote on the self-evident character of the axioms of praxeology, repeatedly and at length…
Translation: This is obvious to anyone with two brain lobes to rub together.
Similarly, the labor theory of value is based, not on an inductive generalization from the observed movement of prices, but on an a priori assumption about why price approximates cost, except to the extent to which some natural or artificial scarcity causes deviations from this relationship.”
Translation: If the author thinks the cost of production has anything to do with the value of a good to a buyer, the author has never been to a liquidation auction.
Economics has been called the dismal science, but that is using the word “science” only in the most generous way, where the epistemological rigors of the scientific method are nowhere to be found.
Economics is a soft science because it attempts to make generally true statements about the behaviors of billions of individual volitional actors, and neither experiment nor real-world testing of a premise is possible because all predictions require a ceteris paribus never possible in the real world.
But then again — in the day when astronomers have to take a vote in a latter-day Nicene Conclave as to whether Pluto is a planet — even traditionally “hard” sciences have gotten quite fuzzy.
When one reads through the major works of the Austrian School of Economics — as I have done — one does indeed have to crawl on one’s belly over a stinking corpse-filled battlefield of dead ideas to get to a few fresh ideas that have provided some useful analytic tools to the arsenal of the social sciences. The assumptions of Austrian extreme a priorism — as von Mises well understood — are as arbitrary as the rules of Chess. Like math, some of them can be applied within specific contexts to answer certain real-world questions. They are maps, not the territory.
The usefulness of Austrian Economics is that it denies all attempts to treat human beings and human transactions collectively. It recognizes that economics is a study of unpredictable actors. It understands by its first assumptions that it rests on the assumption of individual free will.
On Being an Anarchist
If Zen has any lesson to teach, it’s the same ones Alfred Korzybski’s General Semantics try to teach: labels lie, categories lie.
So what if I am or am not an “anarchist”? What the fuck difference does it make? Is there some Board of Anarchists who’s going to censure me if I don’t stick to the Anarchist Party Line and recite the Anarchist Catechism?
I want individual freedom … as much as is offered on the menu. Everything else is debating strategy and tactics.
I’ve called myself an anarchist frequently. What I’ve always meant by that is that I do not see the State, or coercive government, as a good way for human beings to organize their affairs. It is inefficient, encourages and rewards bad behavior, tends to demented analysis and consequently solutions with harsh unintended consequences, legitimizes criminal behavior and outlaws decent and benevolent behavior.
But I have also been awake on Earth for over 56 years in this lifetime, and except for the first dozen or so I’ve had a pretty good chance to get a sense of how things work on this planet.
There are no societies on this planet which have no government. There are territories in constant states of war between contending factions to form a government, but they are violent places with even less respect for rights than places with functioning monopolistic governments.
As a practical man I note that I live in a world which does not offer me the possibility of living in anything close to what I would consider a reasonable or benevolent social order.
Every place on this planet — including the high seas — is within the reach of powers representing governments that I think should not exist.
I also think that there is nothing in the nature of the human species that precludes achieving better forms of organization.
But I also note that achieving any sort of approach to reorganization of human affairs along the lines of recognizing individual human rights and forgoing violence and coercion in dealing with others is — despite several centuries of trying — beyond the reach of those who have tried.
I am therefore left two alternatives. Live a life of pure protest and have nothing to do with the rest of the world, or make accommodations with the rest of my species who to one extent or another approve of and participate in State- and government-related activities.
I choose the latter.
I regard the federal government of the United States of America as a severely degraded version of the Republican principles of the Constitution of the United States, particularly the Bill of Rights. But at least those documents give us a lofty standard by which to judge its lack of fidelity to its founding principles.
That, to me, makes American government — as shitty as it is — superior to governments throughout the rest of planet earth with no such history of documentary idealism.
I am proud to be an American because of the ideals of the American Revolution and the love the American people have expressed for those ideals — often with “our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”
But I find that a lot of anarchists and libertarians are unable to make distinctions and relative judgments between and among one government and another. They are binary rather than textured in their cognition and analysis of politics.
Not America good.
It’s downright Animal Farm.
Not playing that game anymore, and I have little use for those who still do.
Reprinted from New Libertarian Weekly No. 4,
December 26, 1976
“Suddenly there arose such a clatter …”
Janie White awoke with a start. She found herself on the chesterfield in front of the fireplace. She couldn’t have been asleep long for her cheeks were still wet.
Janie had been crying.
Wait! Another sound. Up on the roof? Yes, a muffled voice could be heard.
“Cool it, Rudy. Enough of the clatter of hooves from you eight tiny reindeer already. Keep watch for patrols with your ultra-violet vision, Rudy.”
That didn’t sound like the white-bearded, red-suited fellow she was waiting for. Now she remembered. It was Christmas Eve and she had been hoping to get to the gift-giver before her parents could change what she asked for, what she was supposed to really want.
What to her wondering eyes did appear? Well, one moment she was looking at the fireplace (trying to figure out how fire worked) and the next minute a somewhat rotund, sardonic elf blocked her view.
“Gosh, how did you do that?” Janie was very inquisitive.
“Simple teleportation device, kid,” said the white-bearded gent in a black suit with ermine trimmings. He stepped gingerly away from the fire. “Where did you stash your socks?”
“My stockings?” asked Janie.
“Come on, kid, we haven’t all night. My old man’s patrol could be around any minute.”
“Is your father San–”
“He ain’t the Big Red Cheese. How do you think I got these elvish abilities? Rolled them in a D&D game?”
“Gosh, Mr. Claus, are you helping out your father? Just a minute. I’ll be back with a stocking.” She ran into her bedroom. Then she remembered some of the rules of the game, and thoughtfully brought out one for her little brother as well.
“Here you are, Mr. Claus. Here’s one for my brother, Bobby, too.”
The not-so-old fellow was stoking a meerschaum pipe with various carvings on the bowl. He unslung his sack when Janie presented the sacks.
“Call me Anarcho, kid.” The ebony-clad character seemed to go into a trance.
“Okay, Anarcho Claus. And you can call me Janie, instead of “kid.” She decided he probably wasn’t doing TM. “Are you checking to see if I was naughty or nice?”
Anarcho Claus came out of it. “You’re clean, kid. Naw, I just see whether you ripped anyone off lately. No point in giving somebody property if they don’t believe in it.”
Janie felt as if she were getting away with something. “Well, there was the time when I pushed Bobby away from my construction …”
“That’s okay, Janie. Your parents shoved him on you and told you to share!” He spat out the last word as if it would cause your mouth to be soaped. “Now that was wicked. Nothing for them this Christmas.”
“How do you know all that?” said Janie.
“You mean ‘Read Morality at a Distance’? An esper-related ability, natural to high elves. I inherited it, of course.” He snorted and reached into his sack. “Don’t you read SF?”
“Oh, every chance I can sneak it under my covers!” bubbled Janie. Then downcast, she added, “But my parents say girls don’t make good scientists or starship pilots.”
“Ah, that’s it,” said Anarcho Claus. He pulled out a Deluxe Model Chemistry set. “Groove on this and next year I’ll run in some acids they won’t sell with this to kids.”
Janie was overjoyed. Her wish had come true. “But … but what will my parents say?” She hid the set as they were talking.
“They should know? Kids are entitled to privacy, just like other people.” He dug around in his sack again.
“You mean parents can be wrong?”
“You better believe it, Janie. You know something, I’ve been smuggling in forbidden toys to hard-core girls and boys since I read Tucker in the 1880’s. And I’ve never been finked on.”
“That’s why nobody’s heard of you!”
“Right. OK, mind you, don’t go making bombs or lasers for the State with that.”
“Oh, golly, Anarcho Claus, I’d never make War! My parents don’t believe in it.”
“That’s no reason, Janie. You do something ’cause it’s right, not because your parents tell you. Or even ’cause I tell you.” He pulled out a realistic-looking model submachine gun. “And this is for Bobby.”
“Wow!” jumped Janie. “Mom and Dad are pacifists. They’d kill him if they found him with a gun!”
“Breaker 77 for the one-A-C!” A faint crackling voice could be heard around Anarcho Claus.
“Say, Anarcho Claus, I thought you didn’t believe in war? So how come you’re encouraging Bobby’s gun trip?”
“Hey, pretty good, Janie. I bet you sound just like your mother! Actually, a fair question, if not well put. Let me ask you one, Janie. Do you think you should decide for your brother whether or not he should use his new gun to practice for war?”
“Well …,” said Janie, “if it’s so wrong …”
“And should he decide whether or not you should have the chemistry set …?”
“No!” shouted Janie, then put her hand over her mouth. Did she wake her parents?
Again the faint, crackling voice was heard in the silence. This time Anarcho Claus answered. “I read you, C.B. Double score down here. How’s up top?”
Janie leaned close to Anarcho Claus to hear the voice. It was awfully deep.
“Another sleigh sighted by Black Nose on Ultra-Vision. The Redcoat is coming!”
“10-4. C.B. Pull me up and out. Over.”
“Who’s C.B., Anarcho Claus?” asked Janie. She tugged on his sleeve and …
She was standing in the snow on a roof! And there were nine reindeer, a sleigh full of toys, and a white polar bear on the sleigh with a radio set … or whatever it was.
“Oh, oh! Another kid snagged on to you during beam-up,” said the polar bear in a not-unfriendly growl. The ninth reindeer, with a glowing black nose, was not attached to the sleigh, and he was making sounds to the bear.
“And Rudy says we haven’t time to beam her down, or Redcoat’ll see us.”
“Gosh, Anarcho Claus,” volunteered Janie. “I’ll get down somehow. You get away and keep doing your good things. Maybe Santa will help me down … but don’t worry, I won’t tell him about you!”
“Janie, I wouldn’t let you fall into that phony junk-dealer’s hands. Tell you what, how would you like a ride in our sleigh? Make a few stops with us? And I’ll give you a Revisionist History of Christmas.”
“Oh, wonderful!” exclaimed Janie, jumping up and down and clapping her hands. She hopped up on the sleigh, then slowed down as she approached the polar bear, who had put down the set and was scanning the sky where the black-nosed reindeer was pointing. Anarcho Claus jumped in after her, and his bulk pushed her right up into the warm, white fur of the bear.
“Let’s go, team!” called Anarcho Claus, and the reindeer began walking motions … right up into the air. “They’re a telekinetic breed,” said Anarcho Claus to Janie.
The lead reindeer, still not attached, flew back. “Rudy has an ultra-violet projector/detector in his nose,” explained Anarcho Claus helpfully. “You know, black light? C.B. here watches out for the other kind of bear — the Smokey kind.”
“What’s so bad if San–er, Redcoat catches us, Anarcho Claus?” asked Janie, now trusting the black-suited gentleman not to leave her in mystery.
“Let’s begin with the Elvish Economy of the North Pole,” said Anarcho Claus. “You see, objects of human amusement are a waste product in our industry, damaging to our ecology.”
“Objects of …” wondered Janie. “You mean toys?”
“Sure, the old geezer dumps our waste on you, and gets you kids to toe his line, follow his altruistic policies and serve the establishment parents he’s backing. Simple imperialism.”
“Rudy said he’s spotted us. Now what, A-C?” broke in the polar bear.
“Keep her warm, C.B. Only one chance, we’ll have to outrun him to the Pole and hope we can get behind our anti-detection systems. Hold on!”
And that’s how Janie got to see the Other Side of the North Pole. But that’s another story for next Christmas.
–Samuel Edward Konkin III
My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think when I’m not publishing an old friend, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
When I voted for Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election I calculated that the Republican Party under John McCain would continue the state socialism/fascism represented by his support for the TARP bail-outs, and if we were going to have a socialist in the White House I’d prefer it be the Democrats. My theory was that the Republicans, out of power, would reform themselves into an anti-socialist opposition party, and it would be marginally useful to have at least one of the two major parties oppose socialism.
My vote for Obama was premised on the idea that the United States of America was a hard ocean liner to turn around on a dime, and that it would be beyond the Democratic Party’s unilateral control of both the White House and both houses of Congress to destroy what remained of the Republic before the 2010 off-year elections, and the 2012 presidential election.
Well, the Republicans in the United States Senate did what I wanted them to do. They unanimously rejected the fascist health-care reform bill, showing a party discipline I hadn’t seen in years. Not bad for people pretty much without any loyalty to actual Republican principles.
But I may have miscalculated how quickly the Democrats can destroy the Republic.
It’s not just health care.
It’s also an executive order signed by President Obama on Thursday, December 17, 2009.
This executive order removes restrictions previously placed on foreign police agents belonging to INTERPOL, and grants INTERPOL agents the same diplomatic immunity given to embassy and consular officials of a foreign government.
Foreign embassies and consulates are granted diplomatic immunity so they can conduct diplomacy. Giving such diplomatic immunity to foreign police agents means that they are immune from the restrictions we place on our own police officials to be answerable for the use of deadly force and to abide by Constitutional restrictions on police powers — such as:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.
No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Giving a foreign police officer diplomatic immunity from such limitations makes them into the Gestapo or the KGB. Such an officer could grab and kidnap you with no requirement to Mirandize you, advising you of your Constitutional rights upon being arrested and before questioning.
At the stroke of the President’s pen — with no Congressional oversight or judicial review — it legalizes a class of Secret Police in the United States — and foreign Secret Police, to boot — who can kidnap American citizens on American soil and secret them out of the country with no challenge possible by our own lawyers or even judges.
If that doesn’t make you cry “Holy shit!” you’re just not paying attention.
I anticipated such all-powerful InterFeds in a short story I wrote in 1996.
I wrote it as a warning.
Welcome to my nightmare.
I first performed “When Freemen Shall Stand” in a dramatic reading before the NRA Members Council of Los Angeles on October 10, 1996. It was first published in the April, 1999 issue of Liberty Magazine, and reprinted in my 1999 book, Nasty, Brutish, and Short Stories.
When Freemen Shall Stand
by J. Neil Schulman
It was the third Wednesday in October, just two weeks before the election of our sheriff, and, as chairman of the political action committee, I was supposed to be moderating the candidate’s debate for our monthly Southwestern Freehold Militia council meeting. Only, when the candidates are from the Independence Party, the Constitutional Rights Party, and the Founders Party, nobody wants much moderation and you’re not going to get it anyway.
Our council meetings are supposed to start promptly at seven p.m. on the third Wednesday each month, but stragglers are always still drifting in to the American Legion Hall for the next hour. Our council president, Audie St. Cloud, my oldest friend, principal of the junior high, and our Justice of the Peace, is a stickler for time, but he’s learned to bend a little bit for us grownups. He always gavels us to order at seven-fifteen and doesn’t schedule anything important until after the eight o’clock doughnut, coffee, and I’ll – show – you – my – gun – if – you – show – me – yours break. Not that anyone was likely to have anything to show that most everyone didn’t already have, or hadn’t already seen during first Wednesday drills, anyway. I picked up a copy of the canary yellow agenda from my seat. The candidate’s debate was scheduled as first item after the break.
I could always tell that Tony Bonaduce was in attendance, even if he was way in the back near the doughnut table, grabbing an early one, because right after the “With liberty and justice for all” of the stars-and-stripes salute that starts each meeting, Tony always loudly proclaimed, “Amen!” That’s why I was surprised by the dead silence after the Pledge of Allegiance. Tony, and his son, now sixteen, hadn’t missed the Pledge in six years. So I knew as early as 7:15 that if Tony and Rick couldn’t make the meeting, something was wrong. I caught Audie St. Cloud’s eye and could tell by his expression that he had the same gut feeling.
The first half of the meeting was just the usual housekeeping stuff, committee reports, my report on the blood donation drive, plans for our float in the Waco Memorial Day parade next April 19th. And, of course, every sort of fund- raising — dues reminder, passing the hat, raffle tickets, ticket sales for our annual Shoot Out and Barbecue. I figure on spending around twenty bucks at each meeting, not counting tickets for our events. Whatever Marcia Alvarez hasn’t already gotten out of me at the donated-book table by the end of the meeting, I just spend on raffle tickets. This year, so far, I’ve won two bags of reloads for my M-16 assault rifle, a bound edition of the Encyclopedia of Thomas Jefferson, a collection of John Wayne movies, and a “Danger: Politically Active” tee- shirt — in XL, as a partial consequence of the bear claws and fritters that Jamal Johnson contributes as refreshments from J.J.’s Doughnuts each month.
I was trying to get myself back down to an ordinary shirt size on my camo, so I only had a plain cake doughnut this meeting and had my coffee black. Besides, I planned to join Audie, Jamal, and some of the other guys for supper after the meeting anyway at the Thirsty Cactus. Wednesday was all-you-can-eat fried chicken night. When it comes to Bessie’s fried chicken, I just have no self control. But if I don’t get the extra pounds off by June 15th, I’ll pay for it with extra laps and push-ups during summer training, I know. My cardiovascular fitness is fine, and even though I’m over the age for mandatory participation, I’m not about to quit.
The candidate’s debate was going to be a decisive factor in the election, since our current Sheriff, Fred Wu, was term- limited out and it was an open field. Fred wasn’t endorsing a replacement and the Freehold Clarion’s latest website poll showed it pretty much a three-way dead heat between sheriff’s deputies Aaron Goldstein, Ralph Springer, and Deborah Butler, which meant a run-off election two weeks later. But whomever was going to be in the runoff, this was their last shot at speaking to us, since our November council meeting would be the day after a runoff, and no politicking is allowed at our first Wednesday drills.
The main issue in the sheriff’s election this year was the same as it always was: what the sheriff was going to do about the raiding parties of drunken Peacekeepers from Ft. Barbie.
Every few months, a bunch of Brown Berets right out of Peacekeeper boot camp storm onto the freehold under pretense of buying marijuana, which their regs don’t allow them to buy on base, and start looking for trouble. The Edmonton Accord doesn’t allow us to deny them entry, or disarm them prior to arrest, and no matter how many petitions we’ve sent to Playa del Rey, we’ve gotten absolutely no cooperation from the interfeds in controlling them. The base commander of Ft. Barbie keeps assuring us that when our posse arrests one of his men within freehold limits, the soldier will be court-martialed; but all of our follow-up inquiries after turning over their detained personnel have been bureaucratically stonewalled. Also, every request for the M.P. captain to at least warn our sheriff when Brown Berets are off-duty and might be headed our way have been denied on the grounds of “international security.” And worst, every arrest of a Brown Beret on the freehold has been followed by an even nastier incident a few days later. The Brown Berets protect their own.
They say nobody ever raped a .38, but that isn’t true with the stuff the Peacekeepers are equipped with. The Brown Berets carry everything from C.D.F. sweepers, which will instantly turn a perfectly good bullet into a dud from a thousand feet away, to heartbeat detectors, which makes hiding perfectly useless, to prohypnol tranquilizer canisters.
I probably have a better idea how many of the freehold’s women have been raped than anyone else, because even though most women won’t talk about getting raped to the sheriff’s deputies, sometimes they’re torn up so badly that they need a surgeon.
But our freehold has had more than our share of babies born who don’t look anything like their daddies, and even though abortion is illegal here, nobody has ever asked me if I’ve been supplying RU 486 to women following the raids. I’m not about to tell you, either; that’s strictly between my patients and their doctor. Medical privacy is guaranteed under Article 4, Section 6 of our freehold’s Declaration of Rights … until someone decides to file a complaint against me.
I took my place at the right side of the head table with the candidates to my left, and after I did the formal introductions, they proceeded to put forward their different schemes for dealing with the raids, if elected sheriff.
Aaron Goldstein, the Independence candidate, has served on the posse for eight years — the last two of them as a deputy. He promised that if elected he’d hold onto the next Brown Berets arrested on the freehold and make the interfeds petition for extradition. That got a lot of applause, but I wasn’t particularly anxious to find out how the interfeds would respond.
The Constitutional Rights candidate, Deborah Butler, was all for equipping the posse with arms equal in power to what the Peacekeepers were carrying, and citing Article 51 of the UN charter as the legal basis for doing so when the interfeds came to arrest her. This was also a popular idea, but one which seems impractical to me. Even assuming we could find an outfreehold source willing to sell us the hardware, how are we supposed to allocate funds from the treasury’s bank accounts without the interfeds knowing about it immediately? And with as little money as we have to work with, how can we justify spending tens of thousands of our budget on arms which are just going to get confiscated, likely even before they’re delivered?
I didn’t get to find out what the Founders candidate, Ralph Springer, had to say, because just after I introduced him, young Rick Bonaduce burst into the American Legion Hall and ran right over to me at the head table. “Dr. Lester,” he whispered to me, “come quick! Dad’s barricaded himself in the bedroom with a gun, he’s been drinking heavy, and I think he’s tryin’ to kill himself!”
Audie St. Cloud took the microphone from me. I followed Rick out the door as fast as my legs would carry me, climbing onto the back of Rick’s motor scooter, and held on for dear life during the bouncy three-mile ride down Eagle’s Nest Highway to the Bonaduce’s trailer.
“Is your mom at home?” I asked Rick softly, as soon as he cut the engine.
Rick shook his head, causing straight blond hair to bounce against an almost-invisible mustache he was trying to grow. “She’s over at Mrs. St. Cloud’s tonight.”
“Anybody else in there?” I asked. He shook his head again. “You have any idea what this is about?”
“He got some email earlier today is all I know for sure,” Rick started. “Broke out the Jack Daniels right after Mom left. First I knew something was wrong was when I told him it was time for the meeting and he said he wasn’t going. Then he started watching some old movie — you know, the one where David Koresh survives Waco and masterminds the Oklahoma City bombing? I always thought it was pretty funny but Dad never liked it. Anyway, I guessed he’d just fall asleep in front of the screen like he always does when he’s had a few but this time he went to the gun safe and grabbed his old Colt sidearm and a box of .45 ammo. Then he went into the bedroom and locked the door. Dr. Lester, you know my dad. He’d never touch a gun after he’s been drinking. Breaks every safety rule he’s pounded into me since he taught me Eddie Eagle when I was four. I thought about calling the Sheriff’s station but thought you’d be able to figure out what was eating him faster.”
I put my hand on Rick’s shoulder to steady him a little. He looked around twelve at the moment, really scared. “You ride on over to Ethel St. Cloud’s and get your mother,” I said. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Rick rode off on his motor scooter and I went into the trailer.
I could see a light on from under the bedroom door, so I knocked right away. “Tony, it’s Jess Lester. You scared the hell out of Rick already. You want to let me in?”
“It’s not locked,” came Tony’s voice through the door.
I opened the door. Tony was sitting on the foot of the bed in a cut-out undershirt and boxer shorts, with the Government Model pistol in his right hand, cradled on his lap, safety off, index finger inside the trigger guard.
There was a wicker chair against the one wall of the bedroom where there wasn’t either a door or a dressing table. I picked up freshly-washed pink towels from the chair and tossed them onto pillows wrapped in flower-print pillowcases, then made a production about sitting down casually. Even from across the room, I could smell the liquor on his breath. His eyes were bloodshot and his hair was laying the wrong way across his bald spot.
“It’s Bessie’s fried chicken night,” I said. “If you put on a pair of pants and comb your hair, there’s still plenty of time to meet Jamal and Audie over at the Cactus.”
“Did you know I wanted to be a composer?” he said after a few moments. “Not just songs or movie scores. I wanted to write symphonies, choral works, piano concertos.”
“You should talk to Sam Katz over at the high school,” I said. “He could turn whatever score you give him into parts using their MIDI software, have the school orchestra work it up.”
Tony acted as if I hadn’t said anything.
“You want to hear a joke I made up?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said.
“What’s the difference between a zoo and a freehold?” he said.
I thought carefully about several flippant answers, then decided not to risk them. “I don’t know, Tony,” I said. “What’s the difference?”
“Exactly,” Tony said, and before my lunge could propel me all the way to his right arm, he had already swallowed the barrel of the pistol and blown his medulla oblongata and an impressive portion of his cerebellum onto the wallpaper.
If you’re curious about the email that young Rick said his dad had received earlier, that might have set him off, you can stop wondering.
After Deborah Butler got Rick and his mother, Claudia, back over to Audie and Ethel St. Cloud’s place to stay the night, and Fred Wu and I had done what we needed to do with Tony’s body and the medical examiner’s report, I logged onto our electronic village using Tony’s account and his password, which Rick had given me.
Tony had received no personal messages for two days. There was nothing attached to his email queue except the usual public notices, not even in his deleted message queue. Later, as part of the medical examiner’s inquiry, I asked Aaron Goldstein to norton the email cache memory of Tony’s phone just to see if Tony had trashed anything. But there were no trashed personal messages in the box.
So I can state with some authority that all Tony had been reading before he ate his gun was the weekly edition of the Interfederal Register, the same that we all get.
But there was plenty of probable cause for Tony’s suicide to be found in that publication.
To begin with, we were being consolidated again.
The Tucson Freehold was being stripped of 35,000 acres of its territory, because a type of short-tailed rodent listed as extinct had been found there by an eight-year-old girl. She’d just thought it was some sort of field mouse and had naively taken her new pet to school for show-and-tell on a day when some eager-beaver intern from the Department of Freehold Affairs was observing. The land had been declared an endangered-species habitat, and 1871 Tucsonites were being relocated to our freehold by the end of the year. The Tucsonites were not going to be particularly welcome neighbors. A lot of people around here who lost family members in ’08 still haven’t forgiven their council for signing the Declaration of Interdependence.
To “pay” us for the costs of consolidation, we were being thrown a bone by the IAA. The Arts Administration had authorized a $450,000 location fee to be paid to our treasury by “Dynamic Entry Entertainment,” for a remake of Last of the Extremists, starring Rolf Glock and Donelly O’Brien. An additional hundred bucks a day was available to any locals chosen by the company for extra work. I knew that left non-whites like Jamal and me out. These productions never wanted anyone with other than a Nordic complexion to play the freemen.
Tony Bonaduce had always been a favorite of the production companies for extra work, whenever they shot on the freehold. He’d even been given small speaking parts on occasion. He was pale and blue-eyed, with a round face and a strong chin, and after they’d shaved his head for a part, he always looked the perfect freeman skinhead, rather than the fringe-topped, beer- bellied poultry inspector that he was the rest of the time.
Because Tony’s death was a suicide, Claudia Bonaduce had been unable to get a Roman Catholic priest to perform a funeral mass or allow Tony to be buried at San Miguel’s. So, appropriately, Tony’s funeral was held the following Monday at the same American Legion Hall where most of his close friends had been meeting the night he died, with Pastor Audlin performing the service. Rick Bonaduce had cut some Yucca flowers from his father’s garden and placed them on Tony’s flag-draped closed casket; they were the only flowers he’d planted that were in full bloom this October.
Then Tony was buried with a full U.S. Army honor guard at Veterans Memorial Park. Tony was laid to rest with a rifle salute, taps played off key, and the American flag from his coffin carefully folded and presented to his widow, as befitted a Silver Star veteran of Operation High Five, a medal he’d won by walking for three days up 11,000 feet in front of a school bus on a heavily mined mountain road, leading thirty-eight children and their teacher to safety.
After the burial, there was a wake of sorts at the Thirsty Cactus, with the bar closed off to the public for the afternoon. Ethel St. Cloud was up front at a table with Claudia and Rick. Fred Wu and several of his deputies were in the back room playing pool with Bessie, she of the magnificent fried chicken, and the owner. Audie, Jamal, and me sat around a table near the casino entrance, about halfway back, and proceeded to try figuring out why Tony did it, what we could do to help Claudia and Rick out, and to try getting stinking drunk.
We didn’t get very far in either analysis, but we were about half way to drunk when three Brown Berets walked in.
The Brown Berets stood for a moment, looking around, and seemed to focus their gaze on Claudia Bonaduce. I don’t blame them. Claudia has that classic model look and she’s kept her figure. Now that she was wearing black, her wavy blond hair was set off even more. Then the Peacekeepers took a table near the door and all three sat down with their backs to the wall. One of them tried waving over the bartender.
I noticed Rick looking toward the Peacekeepers apprehensively. He looked as if he was about to go over to them and say something. I caught Rick’s eye and shook my head. Instead, I went over. “Gentlemen,” I said, “the sign on the door said that this is a private party tonight.”
The middle of three Brown Berets, a beefy Russian or maybe Ukrainian, gave me a look as if I was dogshit. The other two, one who looked like he’d be at home in Ku Klux Klan robes, one Mediterranean-looking I think, just stared. These were no fresh recruits out of camp for the first time, looking for casino action or a fling with one of Bessie’s back-room girls. Their ranks were equivalent to what in the old system would have been master sergeants.
I don’t have it in for most cops. The average street cop’s job involves meeting the worst kind of people, and even the best kind of people when they’re at their worst. A city cop’s job isn’t all that different from being the bouncer at a dockside bar. Even our posse have to have training that makes them able to control a situation, no matter what happens.
But the Peacekeepers are missionaries with guns. It’s not that they’re inclined to be bullies. They’re trained to be bullies. It’s part of the job description. They’re always right, you’re always wrong; they can be trusted with the keys to the city and you’re trouble waiting to happen.
“Move aside,” the Russian said to me. “You’re blocking my view.”
I didn’t move. Somehow, my head was perfectly clear. Perhaps if I’d been more sober I would have been more afraid, though.
“My name is Jesse Jackson Lester,” I said. “Doctor Jesse Lester. I serve on the posse, I’m the freehold’s medical examiner, and I’m a captain in our militia. If you’re here on official business,” I told him, “I’ll step aside, or even assist you, if you need it. Otherwise, as I said, this is private. We just buried a friend today. That’s his widow and son over there.” I gestured toward Claudia and Rick’s table.
“The cockroach who killed himself,” said the Mediterranean-looking one, speaking not to me but to his companions. “A failure even among these pathetic losers. He did not deserve to fuck a woman like that.”
All three of them laughed. The Russian leered at Claudia Bonaduce and winked. The expression on her face was enough to break your heart.
There are moments when the provocation is clear and intentional, and designed to create an opportunity for conquest. I noticed that my friends from the back room, including the Sheriff and his deputies, were now only a few yards behind me waiting to see what I would do. I knew the Peacemakers had almost certainly used their C.D.F. sweepers to deactivate any ammunition within the bar before they walked in, so there was no chance of shooting it out with them, if it came to that. They were twenty years younger than I was so there wasn’t even much I could do to start a brawl with them.
So I said, “Gentlemen, I believe you wanted something to drink.”
I walked calmly behind the bar, grabbed a bottle of 120 proof rum from the shelf, and started pouring it onto the bar countertop. The Peacekeepers stared at me in disbelief. I struck a match and dropped it onto the rum, setting the bartop ablaze.
“I don’t like you,” I told the Peacekeepers, as the fire spread. “You are indecent. You have no regard for our legends or our history or our culture. You don’t have a clue what makes us tick. Your movies and books lie about our history and libel our forefathers. You steal our families’ lands. You think trees and rats have more rights than we have. You are the most sanctimonious, self-righteous creatures ever to walk the earth. There is no living with you, and I will burn this entire goddamned country down before you will ever get anything to drink here.”
I heard a hail of cheers and applause from behind me. I glanced over and saw that even Bessie, whose bar I had just torched, was cheering.
It could have turned out differently, I know. The Peacekeepers could have grabbed their weapons and started firing. We might have all been massacred. Instead, they got up and left quickly, watching their backs as they withdrew.
We all chipped in to buy Bessie a new countertop for her bar, which was the only thing singed before I grabbed the fire extinguisher from the wall.
I didn’t want to be sheriff, but I wasn’t given any choice in the matter. All three of the declared candidates withdrew and Fred Wu organized a last minute write-in campaign for me.
I’ve been spending a lot of my spare time with Rick Bonaduce, but have to admit that at least part of my motivation isn’t altruism but the dinners I’ve been invited to by his mother.
I think my boyhood friend, Audie St. Cloud, summed up my unexpected savagery better than anyone else, when he swore me in as sheriff. “Jesse Lester and I used to play Cowboys and Indians as kids,” Audie told the crowd. “Both of us always wanted to be the cowboy, like every American kid does. What Doc figured out,” said Audie, “is that it’s just our turn to be the Indians.”
October 9, 1996
Since it is rarely sung, here is the final verse of the national anthem of the United States of America, “The Star Spangled Banner”:
Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand
Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation;
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven-rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation!
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust!”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave,
O’er the land of the free, and the home of the brave!
Winner of the Special Jury Prize for Libertarian Ideals from the 2011 Anthem Film Festival! My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available free on the web linked from the official movie website. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!
I almost titled this article “Cut the Crap,” but I decided at the last minute it was just a bit too undignified.
I found myself in an Internet flame war yesterday with Kevin Carson who had written a blog called “Libertarians for Junk Science.” Carson and I had crossed swords in the past when he attended a Yahoo Group I moderated for the Movement for the Libertarian Left.
The MLL had been started by Samuel Edward Konkin III who thought there could be libertarian outreach to leftists by teaching them how their revolutionary anti-ruling-class values could best be achieved by first understanding how the Austrian School of Economics, through Konkin’s theories of counter-economics and Agorism, destroyed what they called Capitalism and what Sam called State Capitalism.
After Sam passed away in 2004 J. Kent Hastings took over as list moderator, and got to a point where he wanted me to take over the moderator’s duties. What I found when I started paying attention to the list was that instead of being an outreach of libertarian ideas to the left, the list had become doctrinaire leftist and any attempts to reintroduce libertarian ideas resulted in typical leftist tantrums.
So I set up rules to keep posts courteous and on topic, deleting posts which failed to meet those standards … and a war started against me, calling me an authoritarian fascist. As I said, typical leftist tactics, and the reason Sam — who observed how the SDS had been taken over by doctrinaire Marxists during the Vietnam War — had set the MLL list up to be moderated in the first place.
Kevin Carson was one of those unhappy with the way I was moderating the list. Apparently allowing libertarian ideas on a libertarian list was displeasing to the leftists who had — when Kent was simply allowing anything to be posted — taken the list over.
It’s not my purpose here to reignite those flame wars — either the one on MLL or the one that took place yesterday in the comment section of Carson’s blog.
But I did find in that discussion yesterday a theme worth coming back to my own turf to write about.
It’s this. If an idea can’t be expressed simply and elegantly, it’s bullshit.
Take, for example, the central theme of Christianity: “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Five words. If you need to make it a bit more explicit, it doesn’t add very many more words: “Whatever excuses you make for your own faults, give those same breaks to everyone else.”
Or how about Marxism: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.” It’s an easily understandable idea. Of course that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea — but you need to understand the simple idea that “People won’t work if they don’t feel they’re getting the benefits of working” before you understand why putting it into practice has severe unintended consequences.
The ideas that Kevin Carson and I were flaming each other over had to do with the source of “value” — a fairly abstract concept to begin with.
Adam Smith and Karl Marx held to the idea that the value of a thing was dependent on how much labor went into making it. That idea is called the labor theory of value. That simple idea is the basis of both classical economics and Marxism.
A later economist, Ludwig von Mises, contended that the value of a thing comes from an individual’s desire for it at a particular instant in time, as compared to other objects of desire. That’s called the subjective theory of value. It’s the basis for the laissez-faire economics promoted by libertarians.
Kevin Carson has a theory which attempts to “subjectivize” labor theory of value. To me, that’s like trying to go north and south at the same time. Two simple ideas that lead in different directions can’t be combined, and the trick of making it look as if you have done so requires a magician’s sleight of hand.
We live today in a country filled with sleight-of-hand artists selling bullshit.
The President and Congress of the United States are trying to put forth an improvement on health care, by moving funding and control of it from health-care-providers to the government. In doing so they are trying to replace one simple idea — health care is a marketplace good just like food or clothing — with another simple idea: something as important as your health is too important to be left to the marketplace. The assumption of this second idea is also simple: the government is better at making important decisions than you are.
The thousands of words of argument and the legislation being debated all depends on these simple ideas, but special interests — both private like pharmaceutical manufacturers and insurance companies, and public like politicians addicted to aggrandizing wealth and power for themselves — work hard at hiding how simple the real questions are.
Or take global warming. It’s a simple idea: What human beings exhale — carbon dioxide — is a poison that is destroying the earth.
Makes it real easy to take sides on that one once you realize that the fact that you’re alive is their problem, doesn’t it?
Or even more directly, “Having babies is destroying the earth.”
Sort of starts to make a pattern, doesn’t it?
How about, “Being rich is unfair to the poor — so make the rich poor and the poor rich.”
How’s that again?
Yes, it comes down to ideas that when you peel away the layers are that simple.
The people who want to run your life want you to feel stupid. They want you to regard them as the experts.
If they can make you feel stupid enough to regard them as experts, they’ve won — and winning in this case means they’re the master and you’re their flunkie. When they whistle, you’d better hop to.
I don’t trust anyone who can’t express their “great” idea in a few words. That, to me, is the signature of a bullshit artist.
And we’re up to our waist in such waste these days, aren’t we?
BRAD LINAWEAVER: A crucial question now arises. Is it possible you went into the writing of The Rainbow Cadenza — your second novel — an atheist but came out an agnostic?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I don’t know if I’d crossed over to being an agnostic, but I do recall somewhere near the end of writing that book, sometime in late 1981, having some sort of bad night, where I was up and really going through something emotionally on this issue. I was really, really scared in some sense. I’m not sure exactly of what, but I was being confronted somehow.
I would say that perhaps that was where I first had the experience that C.S. Lewis had talked about in Surprised by Joy of feeling that maybe there was something on the other end of this conversation communicating with me, that it wasn’t just a debate going on in my own mind. Not that in, any philosophical sense, I considered myself an agnostic. That didn’t happen until later. But I would say that emotionally, I started having the sense that there was somebody else in the conversation with me, that it wasn’t simply books I had read.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Were you living the experience that C.S. Lewis wrote about that the young atheist must be very careful about the books he reads?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, I was long gone once I’d read The Chronicles of Narnia. I was not going to get through that without considering those arguments. Coming from a background of so little faith, I didn’t have a resentment of Christianity or anything like that. I wasn’t raised in a Catholic school with nuns teaching me, or anything like that. I didn’t have any religious indoctrination. So I was willing to give these ideas a fair shot. But nonetheless, I was simply trying to figure out if there was a supernatural what was it? Again, I was expecting that anything supernatural —anything above Nature — was going to have laws that it followed, the same as the nature which we understood.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now why did you make that assumption?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because I was a rationalist.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Natural law?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, as far as I was concerned natural law would apply even to the supernatural. That whatever there was that was above the plane of existence which we experienced would have its own natural laws as well.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Let me make sure I understand this; what you are saying is that in your system, or what you were beginning to divine to perhaps be the nature of the universe, it is a mistake to assume — and let’s use the term supernatural for now because it’s the concept I can get my brain around — that it is an error to think that the supernatural is simply a suspension or violation of natural law.
Your position is if the supernatural or other realm exists that natural law applies to it as well, but it is a mistake to view the existence of that other realm as a violation of natural law, if natural law applies to that realm as well.
Is that a proper paraphrase?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Almost, but I do have to make some distinctions.
I saw it as quite possible that there could be laws which would be true to our plane of existence as local phenomena such as the laws of chemistry, the laws of physics, the laws of how space/time worked, gravitation, speed of light. All these sorts of things were local phenomena. But there had to be some overriding natural laws which would apply in all modes of existence, all the universe, all possible universes. So in other words, I saw that there had to be some sort of universal natural laws, laws of logic or something intrinsic to the nature of reality, which would guide the formation of the physical laws with the universes.
Okay, so I saw that even the meta-law, which created the natural law of our universe, would have its own rules, its own principles, its own necessary logic. So I saw that the supernature would have supernatural laws. In the sense of laws which would necessitate certain things, exclude other things. That there were things that would be impossible in any existence
of any sort.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: So, is it fair to say that the philosophical position you were developing at that time in many ways transcends the normal debates between say, the Aristotelians and the Korzybskians? That a large part of the General Semantics’ case against Aristotle is a too-narrow application of what Aristotle might be? Or to phrase it differently, if you’re very much part of classical philosophy with your commitment to natural law but somehow you’re able to be modern as well, in terms of how you deal with the details of the machinery, there’s where you’re more like Korzybski. But your overarching theory is more like Aristotle in terms of natural law. How about that?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. I think that says it.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: This is very interesting. You’re the first person I’ve ever encountered who accepted some kind of supernatural universe when the issue of God was still very distant from you and you were still on your way from an atheist perspective to an agnostic perspective on the issue of God, while already having accepted a more multi-layered universe than most people would ever
consider when they call themselves an atheist or an agnostic.
So having said all that, do you remember what it was that finally brought you to the intellectual position of agnosticism about God?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Well, before I answer that question I have to say where I got this idea of an overriding supernature. I got it from Lewis and Heinlein. And it wasn’t mostly from Lewis’s nonfiction arguments, but simply from how he portrayed things in Narnia. In Narnia you have different worlds with their own laws. For example, magic works in Narnia. But when the Queen of Charn – who has magic in her own world – comes to ours, she doesn’t have the power. It seemed obvious to me that you could have different worlds with different natural laws – different physical laws – because Lewis portrayed that in Narnia.
I’ve joked before that the difference between
So in that sense, being a child who grew up on
Lewis didn’t sell Narnia to children in the way that L. Frank Baum sold The Wizard of Oz, in the sense that anything could happen. There were definite things that could and couldn’t happen in that universe. There were laws that worked there and things worked a certain way. The magic in
Now in Heinlein we go into things like “The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag” and “They.” Heinlein in his Unknown type stories-
BRAD LINAWEAVER: – for John W. Campbell’s fantasy magazine,
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: – he was dealing with the same sort of things. Things like Magic, Inc., in which again, if magic existed, there were going to be rules and there were going to be ways it worked and there were going to be ways it didn’t work. And so from both of them, I was getting a sense that even though there could be things which were apparently supernatural, particularly in Heinlein’s story “Lost Legacy,” where you had all these ancient psychic powers which were innate in us but simply had been forgotten, it was obvious to me that if psychic phenomena and the supernatural – and even ghosts and afterlife existed – there were rules. There were ways that things worked and it may be that we didn’t know how they worked but that didn’t mean that it was chaotic. It didn’t mean that anything could happen. It simply meant that we didn’t understand the rules yet.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now, at that time when you were reading all this material you wouldn’t know what you would learn later, as you learn more about the actual writers that you admire so much, because Heinlein and Lewis are two of your favorite writers?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But it’s interesting to realize later on that these two authors were doing a form of logical fantasy that was quite unusual. John W. Campbell was getting logical fantasy from Heinlein for
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes, except for one thing, that Lewis was a fan. Lewis read American science fiction. He read Astounding, he read
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And also he actually appeared in an interview in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. He even did some short stories for the American Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And he even comments, I think, on some Heinlein stories in some of those discussions.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That is correct and you can read some of that in Lewis’s Of Other Worlds. But I’m talking about the young J. Neil Schulman who doesn’t know a lot of this –
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: – coming from your secular Jewish background. Of all the people for you to find as a master of logical fantasy – if you had been asked to make a bet at the time – the last person you’d bet on is one of the best-known Christian apologists of all time. It’s not the guy you’d expect to be the logical fantasy writer – you see what I’m saying?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. However, at that age, thinking of Lewis as primarily a Christian writer never would have occurred to me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: No, but you find that out later and this is very important. We’re back to Rainbow Cadenza. I believe a huge watershed in the development of your thought – and preparing you for the experiences that you later had, which is the primary thrust of this book – I believe is in that exchange between the Lewis fan and the Rand fan in Rainbow Cadenza that I studied very closely to do my afterword. I realized that I had been given the best assignment of all the “rainbow” of afterwords because something in me told me way back then, that there was something, in that exchange between those two minds from such opposite worlds, that was crucial to thinking going on in you, and that something was changing in your philosophy toward the universe. That was the impression that I had at the time that I wrote that afterword.
So you were an atheist coming to agnosticism?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And, by the way, let’s look at my cultural milieu then. I was surrounded by other atheists. There were no believers around me you know. I was hanging around with a libertarian crowd of whom atheism was simply taken for granted.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You didn’t know anyone like me at that time who was an intellectual agnostic?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Heinlein called himself an agnostic.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But I mean in your immediate group?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: The distinction between agnosticism and atheism at that point wouldn’t have been a very sharp distinction for me.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And you had never met somebody with my form of agnosticism?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No
BRAD LINAWEAVER: My deeply intellectual committed agnosticism?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No. Agnosticism to me merely was a different word to describe, as far as I was concerned, that “I need more proof that there is a god.”
BRAD LINAWEAVER: By the way, I sounded very pompous when I just said “deeply intellectual agnosticism” what I was trying to say was “a well-thought-out agnostic system.” Most people say they’re agnostics because they don’t want to be bothered. I actually do have a developed agnostic system, as you know.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. And of course that was how Heinlein described himself, also, because when I interviewed Heinlein in July, 1973, I described myself to him as an atheist and he described himself to me as an agnostic, but both of us used the same paradigm to describe ourselves and that is that there is insufficient proof that there is a God. He used the word “agnosticism” to describe that and I used the word “atheism” to describe that. So as far as I was concerned it was a distinction with no difference.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: It’s the old Scot’s jury verdict that instead of saying “not guilty” said “not proven.”
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But the one source for me, at that time, of people who believed in God, were the people at the C.S. Lewis Society and some of the Mythopoeic Society. Those were the only people I knew who believed in God.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Now that was the New York group?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: No, in California. Now, I knew observant Jews in New York. They were part of our circle at the NYU Science Fiction Society meetings, which I attended. But it never crossed my mind whether their being observant really had to do with whether they believed in God or not.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh please amplify that remarkable sentence. Elaborate.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Because, in my experience, being a Jew had very little to do with whether or not you believed in God. It had to do with following traditions. It’s almost like Judaism, you know, it’s the debate whether it’s a religion or a race. It’s neither. It’s a tradition. It’s a series of ritualized performances, in the same way that my Bar Mitzvah, to me, was like rehearsing for a stage show or something like that. It was, in essence, learning a performance.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Like rehearsing for the ultimate play or something like that.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Like rehearsing for a play.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: And the grandparents are the audience.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. So to me Judaism wasn’t a religion. Judaism wasn’t a race. Judaism was in essence a tradition which was passed down from generation to generation to generation of observing and enacting certain behaviors.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh, what a beautiful way to put it! You’re going to allow me to do this now, Neil. I’m going to give you a Gene Scott quote you will like.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: All right, you’re entitled.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Gene Scott when he said, on the first book of his I ever read and the blurb right on the back cover was a quote from Scott, and Scott said “Traditions make void the Word of God,” and my Roman Catholic aunt was horrified by that and wouldn’t even read a book that had that on it. I thought the Roman Catholics would be the ones most offended by such a sentiment. But now I’m beginning to realize that actually the observant Jews might be more offended by Gene Scott’s statement than even the Roman Catholics – is that a fair assessment?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think the Jews I know who would discuss this, particularly Dennis Prager, wouldn’t be offended by Gene Scott’s comment so much as they would want to argue and explain.
Dennis Prager has described himself as a behaviorist – not in the B.F. Skinner sense of operant conditioning or something like that – but in the sense that — in his view — God does not judge our thoughts. Which is a great distinction from Christianity where Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, in essence invents thought-crime. “You’ve been told if you commit adultery it’s a sin. I tell you if you lust in your heart that’s an equivalent sin” is, in essence, Jesus inventing thought-crime.
From the Jewish conception there is no thought-crime. There is only behavior. There’s only what you do, not what you think. If you observe what is expected to happen, I imagine – from the Jewish perspective – is that the actions that you take will form your character.
Now Heinlein himself reiterates this in
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: – the choices you make are who you are forever, that that is what defines you. And that’s a very Jewish thought in the sense that behavior – how you act – is more important than what you think.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: A more traditional Christian point of view might be summed up as “character is destiny,” as a different concept than being concerned with behavior, because the thing is there’s different Christian traditions. Some Christian traditions are very concerned with the law, and then are very concerned with behavior. But Grace Christianity is of course much less concerned with behavior and much more concerned with intent.
But I understand one thing about the thought-crime point that you’ve made – from what I understand about Jesus Christ saying that in The Sermon on the Mount. What I understand Jesus Christ to be saying is no one can stop these sinful thoughts therefore you will be sinners no matter how many rules you keep. Therefore you need another way to salvation. That keeping 600 rules — not ten but 600 rules — the way to salvation is the thing I’m going to give you. You can’t get to Heaven on your own by keeping rules because you’re going to sin no matter what. It’s “thought-crime” as a way to escape from the yoke and burden of trying to be perfect, as opposed to, say, thought-crime in
So it’s almost a libertarian version of thought-crime if you say you can’t help but sin. You see what I’m saying? The whole Christian tradition took those thought-crimes and created control, control, control, and others took to free up those things.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But you see I see where that’s coming from. That’s coming from the idea that we’re fallen, which is a big deal in Christianity. That we’re fallen, we’re suckers who don’t have an even break.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s totally correct. That’s what it says.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay, you may have free will, but forget it – you’ve already lost.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Until you accept this deal, you got it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But the Jew doesn’t believe in Original Sin.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right that’s a Christian invention or contribution.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: It’s not part of Jewish thinking. If I was taught anything about Christianity, in my childhood, it’s that Jews don’t believe in Original Sin and Christians do.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Right. That’s right
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Now you could argue about whether or not Jews believe in free will or predestination.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I think there’s two sides to that argument too.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But nonetheless, destiny is not something like predestiny. In essence, if anything, every action you take is a creation of destiny. Every choice you make is a creation of destiny. You are creating destiny with every free-will choice you make. That would be the way that I would conceive it and I think that’s a Jewish viewpoint. So when Dennis Prager talks about behavior as being what’s important, he is looking at it from outside of the consequence of choice.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: You’ve given me an epiphany. Let me ask you this question. Could it be that something that the ancient pagans and the ancient Hebrews had in common was no part of this original-sin belief and Christianity brought the original-sin concept in? Is it not a reasonable assumption, though obviously it requires more research, the ancient pagans and the Jews who fought like crazy over many things, neither would have a clue what Original Sin was? The pagan didn’t have Original Sin either. That’s what I’m asking.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Let me make a further distinction between the Jew and the pagan here. The pagan – you’re correct – didn’t have any concept of Original Sin in that sense. The Jew would believe in the Fall of Nature and the Fall of Man but
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Ah, here’s the distinction I wasn’t getting. They go along with the Christian view up to the point where the Christians took the Jewish concept and added this to it.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: You might think of it as, remember and this is again where I read Genesis and I seem to get things out of it that other people reading it don’t focus on. It’s not just the Fall of Man it’s also the Fall of Nature.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Yes that’s right.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN:
Now that tells me something okay, that tells me the physical universe around you is different.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Oh you’re not alone in this view, by the way. Lewis is totally with you on this.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Okay. The physical universe around you is different and that means that you have greater obstacles than you would’ve had. As far as I was concerned – in reading Genesis and looking at it and trying to analyze it and make sense out of it - it was telling me that, not living in Eden, we had a steeper hill to climb but it was still a hill which we could climb. It was just going to be harder. Maybe, if you want to talk about it almost like in a physical sense, instead of living on a planet with one-sixth earth’s gravity, we are now living with six times the gravity than living on Earth. In other words, we’re living on a planet where things are harder because of what had happened.
Well, harder does not mean that you’ve necessarily lost. It merely means that you need to put in more effort and rise to a higher standard to overcome. Okay? You could still do it; it was just going to be harder.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Sisyphus rolling the rock in hell right up to lip of the cliff and than it always rolls back down on him? Is that an original-sin type of notion? Basically you’re saying you could get that rock over the hill.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I want to get back to one thing. You were having your experience with the C.S. Lewis Society Christians and you were having your experience with the Rand/Objectivist-tinged libertarians. And you were dealing with these two groups of people, both of whom had a set of convictions. With the passage of time, it turns out you’ve got something very different going on in your head. Something very different is going on in your head than a traditional Christian view, a traditional Jewish view or a traditional atheist view – where the Objectivists are classical atheists.
What I want to ask is, with this back-and-forth, did you sense both that – A – both sides had some legitimate arguments but – B – both sides had an inadequate or incomplete case? There was something missing. That’s what I got from your stuff in Rainbow Cadenza, in that section I studied for my afterword. I got the feeling that you had the feeling that something was missing. I’m still trying to get that crossover point where you go from atheist on God to agnostic on God. I’m still trying find where that happened.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I’m not sure I can characterize it in a continuum that way, but let me tell you how I experienced it. There was a long period, while this was going on, I felt that I was carrying multiple philosophies in my head.
It’s like in my story “The Musician,” where my character, Jacob Schneider, has two possible realities and he doesn’t know which one is true. And so he is going along, taking only those necessary actions to fulfill that which is immediately before him. Not knowing whether what is going on is, in fact, a conspiracy against him, or, in fact, whether he is going through some sort of psychological episode which is presenting to him something which isn’t real.
And this is very much a sort of story which is very, very important to me, the story of psychological tension where you don’t know what reality is. It’s a very Philip K. Dick-ian type of thing. Which is one of the reasons why I’ve read and admired and enjoyed Philip K. Dick so much.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Same here.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: I think that he must have had something akin to my experience, at some point, to put him in this state of mind.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I agree.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: And Robert Anton Wilson, when he talks about his Large Rabbit experience – which I’m sure, he’s talking about fancifully but nonetheless
Heinlein, in his story “They,” has a character who is being treated as if he’s a psychotic but nonetheless he believes that there is an actual conspiracy and world-changing going on around him, and of course at the end of the story the twist is that turns out to be true.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I find that the most solipsistic vision in the history of literature.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: But it’s not solipsistic because in solipsism you’re creating your own nightmare. This is a nightmare which is being created by others.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: I’ll rephrase, emotional solipsism projected into a universe where all of the worst suspicions of the main character turn out to be true.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: That’s right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: That’s more accurate.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Paranoid. It’s the greatest paranoid short story of all time?
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Yes. But what all these visions have is the tension of living inside a work of suspense fiction. Where you are living in a situation like a character in a plot where you are living in suspense — the definition of suspense being doubt of outcome of intent, where you do not know from where you are what the truth is. It’s living in a mystery story.
Okay. And I found myself living in a metaphysical mystery story in which there was more than one explanation of what was going on and I was carrying them all in my head simultaneously, taking those action only which were immediately before me, while trying to get more data and trying to figure out which of the things being presented to me was true.
Now I would say that that, carrying more than one paradigm in my mind and running them as simultaneous programs as if I were a computer with compartmentalization of programs running in different sections, that I would call my agnostic period.
BRAD LINAWEAVER: But that is the answer to my question. That is where you were. To that extent you were agnostic.
That’s a more unusual form of agnosticism than mine and I know that mine is not run-of-the-mill common.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Right. When I was an atheist I was running one paradigm. When I became an agnostic I was running multiple paradigms. And when I got to the point where I was a convinced theist, I was back to one paradigm again.
And that is where I think we should take this up in the next section, because we talked about how you got from atheist to agnostic. In the next section I want to talk about your journey from agnostic to your experience.
J. NEIL SCHULMAN: Excellent!
BRAD LINAWEAVER: Thank you, Neil.
Next in I Met God — God Without Religion, Scripture, or Faith is Chapter III: Contact
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